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VOL. I. 





















VOL. I. 





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IN publishing " The Life, Times, and Labours of 
Robert Owen," I desire to tender to the Co- 
operative Newspaper Society my warmest thanks for 
their kindness in making over all rights to me. 

The work has been revised by my brother, Mr 
William Cairns Jones, and is now issued in the hope 
that its reception may warrant the publication of 
other of my father's writings. 



f iogr«jjhkal §ketth of the ^tithor. 

WHEN the republication of "The Life, Times, 
and Labours of Robert Owen " was decided 
upon, it was suggested that if I were to write a short 
notice of my father, to be prefixed to the work, it 
might impart to it a slight additional interest, in the 
eyes of some of its readers in the co-operative move- 
ment. I received, at the same time, concerning the 
character of what I should write, one or two sug- 
gestions, of which I have availed myself 

Though the following sketch is not intended to be 
in any sense biographical, I may state that my father 
was, as his name implies, of Welsh extraction, being 
the descendant of a Glamorganshire family. During 
the Revolution of 1688, an ancestor of his, one Morgan 
Jones, served under William of Orange as an officer of 
cavalry, and, after the Battle of the Boyne, settled in 
Ireland as a stock farmer. In 1798 my grandfather, 
who was at the time a youth living in Dublin, 
took part in the insurrection. On the capture of 

X Lloyd Jones, 

Lord Edward. Fitzgerald, he made his escape to the 
Wicklovy Hills, where a number of the insurgents, 
gathering head, fought a skirmish with a body of 
troops by whom they were defeated ; when my grand- 
father, travelling by night and hiding during the day, 
made his way farther south. Ultimately he became a 
small employer of labour, in the fustian-cutting trade, 
in Bandon, where he married, and where my father 
was born in the year 1811. 

Subsequent to the insurrection, and after settling 
in Bandon, my grandfather turned Roman Catholic. 
This was, I believe, to a considerable extent, due to the 
fact that, living in the midst of an English Protestant 
settlement where religious prejudice was, even for 
that period, unusually strong, he witnessed much that 
revolted his sense of justice on the one hand and 
excited his sympathy on the other. In any case, it 
would appear that, to the last, he remained a steadfast 
convert to Roman Catholicism. But, though in many 
people belief, of whatever nature, is the result of early 
training and association, I imagine that my father 
must, while very young, have developed tendencies 
which were unfavourable to an acceptance of many 
things involved in an adherence to the faith in which 
he had been educated. I should suppose moreover 
that my grandfather had none of the narrowness 
which commonly belongs to converts from one reli- 
gious faith to another. I take him to have been a 
very liberal-minded man of good information and 
reading, as I have heard my father mention that he 
himself was familiar with the names of many cele- 
brated authors while he was still a child, and long 
before he read their works. This may have helped to 

Lloyd Jones. xi 

impart to him that great fondness for books which, as 
was well known to those who were intimate with him, 
was one of his chief characteristics. 

My father's knowledge of literature was extensive 
and varied. To many who had intercourse with him, 
his reading might have appeared to be more or less 
confined to subjects an acquaintance with which was 
essential to the part he took as an advocate of political 
and social reform. But, though he had not the same 
opportunity of utilising it as he had of utilising 
information acquired through a study of political, 
social, and economic questions, perhaps the most 
remarkable thing in connection with his reading was 
his knowledge of English poetry, from the earliest 
writers down to those of the present day. In this 
branch of literature, his reading had, over a long series 
of years, been very extensive, insomuch that there was 
hardly a poet belonging to any period of our history 
with whom he was unacquainted. His memory was 
excellent, and it was astonishing with what readiness 
he would recall passages from some of the oldest and 
most obscure of our minor poets, even though he might 
not have looked into their pages for years. I think 
that few readers excelled him in taste. His judg- 
ment was discriminating, and he was not easily 
betrayed into exaggerated praise, though he had a 
ready eye and a keen appreciation for beauty of 
thought and expression. In especial, whatever urged 
an exalted conception of human duty, or commemor- 
ated any example of self-sacrifice, in terms appropriate 
to the inspirations of genius, never failed to have a 
powerful effect upon him. I may mention, as a 
characteristic fact, that one of the last poems he 

xii Lloyd Jones. 

requested to have read to him was Mrs Browning's 
" Mother and Poet." 

His disposition was sanguine. The vicissitudes and 
mischances from which his life was seldom free, would 
have been sufficient to depress, or even to render dis- 
contented and morose, many men of different tem- 
perament; but, in the presence of misfortune, he seldom 
failed to maintain a cheerfulness and a hopefulness 
which very few would have been likely to possess in 
similar circumstances. This disposition not only sup- 
ported him in the midst of personal calamity, but also 
enabled him to carry into the efforts with which his 
public life was associated an eager enthusiasm and 
confidence in the success of the principles he advo- 
cated ; though he was not one who had any faith in 
the " barren optimistic sophistries of comfortable 

Notwithstanding his antipathies were sometimes 
strong, he was by nature unsuspicious and trusting 
to an extent which, as I think, more than once led to 
his being too readily deceived in the characters and 
motives of those with whom he had intercourse. In 
the absence of some very convincing proof of insin- 
cerity, he was apt to place unreserved confidence in 
the professions of those who were interested in what- 
ever cause he had most at heart ; and, though he 
would sometimes express, in unmistakable terms, 
disapprobation of the proceedings of men with whom 
he was brought into contact, anything approaching to 
a steady and rooted distrust, even in cases where 
many might have considered such a feeling prudent 
and justifiable, was almost impossible to him. I have 
often thought that in judging of men, he was, as a 

Lloyd Jones. xiii 

rule, disposed to make insufficient allowance for the 
vanity and self-interest by which their conduct was 
likely to be influenced. But even had he, in this 
respect, been more incredulous than he was, it could 
not have destroyed his belief in the accomplishment 
of some good purpose, in the midst of all that could 
tend to discourage such a belief. In consequence of 
an unfortunate inability on my own part to altogether 
share this hope, I had the more frequent opportunity 
of hearing him repudiate the opposite view. I have 
spoken of his love for the poets. One of his chief 
favourites, among those of the present century, was 
Wordsworth ; and I think this preference was due to 
Wordsworth's never-failing recognition of the theory 
that human nature cannot be so degraded but that 
there exists in every heart the capability of respond- 
ing to a true and earnest appeal. It was this 
poet's thorough belief in humanity which attracted 
him beyond every other quality, for it was with this 
he most deeply sympathised. 

In dealing with the questions in which he took a 
leading interest, he rarely failed to make allowance 
for all those circumstances which, in different classes 
of men, tend to create a divergency in regard to the 
formation of opinions. If an occasional impatience 
were visible in his manner, it was due to the earnest- 
ness of his character rather than to any want of con- 
sideration for the opinions of others, even when these 
were most at variance with his own. I think I am 
justified in saying that seldom was his warmest 
denunciation of principles of which he disapproved, 
made on the assumption that they were not conscien- 
tiously maintained by those whom he sought to con- 

xiv Lloyd Jones. 

fute. He was very slow to attribute unworthy motives 
to his opponents, and if during his early life, he attacked 
certain men or classes of men, it was, to judge from all I 
have heard and read concerning those times, in circum- 
stances of extreme provocation, and in retaliation upon 
an unscrupulous intolerance which never hesitated to 
unjustly attack the characters and motives of himself 
and his associates. Taking into consideration, how- 
ever, the fact that his name was so often identified 
with the warfare of important and conflicting interests, 
the greater part of his career was especially free from 
misrepresentation ; and it is no more than just to say 
that it was also free from whatever could have fur- 
nished an excuse for calling into question the motives 
from which he acted. Whenever he was called upon 
to do so, as happened more than once, he never hesi- 
tated to make an upright choice between his own 
personal advantage and an adherence to principle. 

When he decided, during the election of 1886, to 
become a candidate for Parliament, I undertook to 
urge upon him the fact that he was about to engage 
in a contest in connection with which it was a gene- 
rally accepted theory that men of average conscien- 
tiousness in the ordinary affairs of life, might, without 
censure, avail themselves of the most contemptible 
methods of securing the triumph of their own faction 
— that he was about to strive for a victory which was 
difficult of achievement, and, if gained, not worth 
having. But he had taken part as an earnest politici^in 
in most of the political movements of his time without 
injury to his own sincerity, and he declined to regard 
otherwise than as an honour, the privilege of repre- 
senting a large body of his fellow-countrymen in the 

Lloyd Jones, xv 

House of Commons. He was, moreover, persuaded 
that as a member of Parliament he would have a more 
effective opportunity of advocating the cause of those 
in whose behalf he had laboured for so many years, 
and on such a point it was impossible to question the 
justice of his being entirely guided by his own experi- 
ence and judgment. At the same time, it is undeniable 
that, while acknowledging that a too positive assertion 
of the right of independent thought and action might 
become both inconvenient and injurious, he was a 
" party man " only in a sense in which the interests of 
party are understood to be subordinate to the interests 
of the nation, and their success consistent with an 
honourable self-respect on the part of those who seek 
to secure it. 

My father never estimated the possibilities of any 
cause in which he was interested, by the measure of 
success which attended his own efforts. Had he been 
destined to recover from the illness which occasioned 
his death, there is no reason to doubt that during the 
years which might have remained to him, he would, 
in spite of failure and disappointment, have exhibited 
the same hopefulness and, so long as he retained his 
health and strength, the same energy that had marked 
the years through which he had already passed. 
Once, in reply to an observation I made to him, he 
read aloud the following passage from the " Sayings 
of George Eliot," the pages of which he happened to 
be turning over at the moment : — *' The only failure a 
man ought to fear, is failure in cleaving to the purpose 
he sees to be best. As to just the amount of result he 
may see from his particular work — that's a tremendous 
uncertainty ; the universe has not been arranged for 

xvi Lloyd Jones. 


the gratification of his feelings. So long as a man 
sees and believes in some great good, he'll prefer 
working towards that in the way he's best fit for, come 
what may." 

These words indicate the principle by which he was 
guided through long years of labour and trial, and to 
which he remained constant to the end. 





Birth and Boyhood ---... 7 

Starts as his Own Master - 

The Dying of the Old 

Visit to Scotland 



The Birth of the New - - - . - 36 

Struggles Onward ------ 46 


Purchase of the New Lanark Mills - - - 54 

His Policy at New Lanark - - - - . 63 

Mr Dale's Confidence in Him - - - - 67 

xviii Contents. 



The Fight and its Difficulties - - - - 72 

New Partnerships ... - . - 79 

Education Struggle . - . - - - 84 

Theory in Regard to the Importance of Education - 90 

Better Prospects - - - - . - 94 

Importance of his Work at New Lanark - - - 103 

William Allen - - - - - - in 

Driven Out ....... 121 

Factory Labour — Reform - - - - - 129 

Factory Reform - - - - - - 138 

Factory Bill Struggle . - . . . 146 

General Activity - - - - - - '55 


J Plans and Principles -.---- 164 

Contents, xix 


His Religion - - - - - - - I73 

His Trip to the Continent . - - . - 182 

Operations in London— Owen*s Position - - - 188 

His Correspondence with the Duke of Kent - - 195 

His Disposition and Public Teaching - - - 204 

Visits Halkham, and Stands for Parliament - - 211 

Visits Ireland and America . - - - - 219 

Visits the West Indies and South America - - 225 

Mexico --.--.-- 232 





In commencing this memoir, I feel how inadequately 
any mere narrative of the everyday events of such a 
life, would bring into view the importance of the work 
in which from early manhood Robert Owen had been 
engaged. Had he been a statesman or a soldier, a 
literary man or a mere diner-out, much of his life 
would have been spent amongst men whose position, 
acts, or sayings would have given interest to him ; 
and much of the pleasure and profit to be derived 
from a perusal of his biography, would be due to the 
public events in which he had taken a part, and in 
what he had been able to relate concerning the public 
men with whom he had been associated. Books of 
biography, constructed on the principle here indicated, 
are both instructive and amusing. Our interest in the 
past arises to a great extent out of what we know of 
those who have played an important part in it ; but, 
away from the beaten paths of the world, there are 
fields of action which may be laboured in with great 
profit to those who need the sympathy and help of 
their fellows, and there are men who, unattracted by the 
honour or the profit of success, enter these fields and 



2 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

labour in them ; receiving frequently, as their reward, 
the censure of those on whose behalf they have been 
struggling, and the losses that always attend efforts 
made in resisting wrong, or in overcoming errors sup- 
ported by authority, prejudice, and self-interest. 

Robert Owen entered, at an early ag^, the field 
in which he laboured during a long life, never for 
a moment turning aside from the pursuit of the 
object for which he had decided to struggle, f He 
accepted cheerfully labour and loss, censure ancTdis- 
appointment. Derision and scoffing came to him, but 
never produced in him despondence or despair. .iJe 
had^ lived amongst the people, and knew, what they 
suffered through ignorajice and poverty;^;_aiidiie taok^ 
on himself, as the chief duty of his life, to war 
against these, whatever he might suffer in the coa- 
flict. "Trhe interest of such a life lies in its practical 
wisdom and its faithfulness to principle, not in the 
completeness of its success. The highest to be hoped 
by the wisest and ablest who engage in such a work, 
is that practicable openings may be made by which 
future success shall be reached by others. 

In this narrative attention will be given especially 
to a description of the state of things that existed in 
Great Britain during Owen's lifetime. \ The social 
and industrial condition of the masses of the people 
will be described, so that the character of the work in 
which he engaged may be the more distinctly under- 
stood. I have endeavoured to describe the plans 
devised by him for helping forward his proposed 
reforms, the measure of success he met with, and the 
position in which things stood when his long labours 
were brought to a close. 

' Prefatory. 3 

Between the date of his birth and that of his death, 
there took place a greater number of important 
developments in mechanical discovery and applied 
science, in connection with the business of the 
country, than had taken place within the same space 
of time at any other period of the world's history. 
The conditions of labour became entirely changed, 
and during his most active period as a manufacturer 
and reformer, the changes were- producing results of 
a most undesirable kind. [^ There was a rapid and 
extensive displacement of human labour by mechanical, 
labour, and the people so displaced had neither time 
nor opportunity to fit themselves to the industries 
brought into existence by the new applications of 
mechanical science. Hence there was deep poverty 
and severe suffering amongst the working portion of 
the population, who, in their inability to understand 
the new position, became irritated. The increase of 
the productive capacity of the country brought to 
them chiefly an increase of suffering. For many 
years the changes made in the situation of the work- 
ing people were changes for the worse, and they 
could not see any satisfactory explanation, nor could 
they hope for any imprcvementjj 

In making comparisons between the England of 
the past and the England of the present, the power of 
creating wealth in the past as compared with the 
present should be carefully considered ; also the 
relative proportions of the accumulated wealth of the 
country possessed by the different classes of the com- 
munity, and the prevailing content or discontent of 
the people in regard to its apportionment. The 
danger in connection with this, and how to avoid it. 


4 Life J Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

has been a sore trouble to some of the wisest heads ; 
and this was the question which presented itself to 
Robert Owen's mind, from the moment he took his 
place amongst those who were then busy in develop- 
ing and directing the new productive power which 
was rapidly coming into existence, — how to regulate 
its use, how to arrange for an equitable distribution 
of its results, how to employ the masses of the people 
in connection with it, that they might find in its increase 
an improvement of their condition, and by this a growth 
of wealth and an expansion of power in the nation. 

Beyond these considerations there were others that 
actively occupied his thoughts in regard to the 
education of the people, with a view to a higher life 
in connection with their daily labours, — an increase 
of knowledge, a love of truth, a kindlier intercourse, a 
wiser tolerance of every form of difference in thought. 
This was the work on which Robert Owen employed 
the labours of his life, and few of those acquainted 
with the work he did will doubt that a large measure 
of success has been obtained. 

The industrial system of the country had up to 
then been limited in its operation, and had not led to 
any of those marvellous developments in regard to 
the trade and population of the country which have 
since taken place, i^ The general condition of the 
population began at that time to undergo a radical 
change. The artisans were drawn out of their 
cottages, in which nearly all manufacturing opera- 
tions were carried on, and were supplemented by 
large numbers of the rural population, who sought 
employment in the factories erected on the river 
sides, where water could be applied as the moving 


Prefatory, 5 

power to the vast mechanical forces which were 
coming into use. Except in the fields, and in those 
smaller household industries to which the new in- 
ventions did not apply, a complete change took place 
in the relation of employer and employed, and in the 
habits of both. The largeness of the employers' 
undertakings, and the great increase in the numbers 
employed, rendered personal supervision next to 
impossible ; whilst the rapidly increasing wealth of 
the factory owners, and their consequent change of 
habit, gradually separated the two classes from each 
other, not only in sympathy but in interest, as mere 
payers and receivers of wages. The domestic rela- 
tions, that were a necessary condition of life in the 
old system of household industry, were rendered less 
intimate. The loom and the spinning-wheel, together 
with the cultivation of a certain portion of the land, 
held been the occupations of the family. The father 
and sons attended to the land when, as weavers, they 
had distanced the mother and daughter as spinners ; 
parental superintendence, therefore, was constant, and 
parental teaching and example were felt. These, to 
a great extent, ceased when the workers, particularly 
the young, were drawn from their homes into the 
factories. When, in addition, it is remembered that 
over the whole of this initiatory period the principal 
inconvenience felt by the employers was want of 
workers, or "hands," it will not be wondered at if, 
in the absence of home influences, the evil effects of a 
bad companionship on the minds and habits of factory 
children began at an early period to be apparent. 

It was at the commencement of this new system of 
industrial life that Robert Owen was born. During its 

6 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

early development he had to decide how he should 
act as an employer in reference to it. The system 
itself and its consequences, actual and probable, came 
to thousands of others, as they came to him. These 
had to make their choice, as he made his ; and it is 
because he stood aside from the great body of the 
employers of the country, not acting for himself alone, 
but thinking and acting for those who wefe rapidly 
becoming the victims of the new industrial system, 
that hi^thoughts, his plans, and his labours should be 
interesting to the present generation. Just now the 
great industrial struggle, which may be said to have 
commenced with him, is proceeding with vigour ; but 
now the combat is in the hands of the masses of the 
working people, who were at that time totally unable 
to help themselves, but who had in him a true 
champion. There were other good and true men 
even at the beginning, of whose labours I shall have 
to speak ; but none of them comprehended the magni- 
tude of the growing danger, nor did any of them 
attempt, as did Owen, to grapple with it in all its 
forms and ramifications, physical, moral, and indus- 
trial, — not by exposure and denunciation alone, but 
by forethought, business arrangement, and by calm 
constructive work. 

Some short time previous to his death, Robert 
Owen wrote and published what he called " Recollec- 
tions of My Life." These " Recollections *' are what 
they profess to be, and make no pretensions to fulness 
of detail, to strict accuracy in sequence, or to order in 
the importance of the events comprised in a long and 
active life extending over eighty years. He seems 
not to have noted the scenes and circumstances of his 


Birth and Boyhood. 7 

daily life, or to have kept a record of his dealings with 
the world, while actively pursuing his duties as a large 
manufacturer and as an earnest reformer. 

It may be said of him, however, that his memory 
was always clear, and his judgment on matters of 
business singularly sound. Up to the latest period 
of his life, he talked of past occurrences, however 
remote, with clearness and readiness, so that all he 
states in his " Recollections" may be relied on for its 
closeness to fact. When it is considered, moreover, 
that all he said and did was influenced by candour 
and love of truth, whether in dealing with friends or 
opponents, it may be taken for granted that what is 
inserted here from his brief autobiography, is above 
suspicion so far as concerns fairness of statement and 
honesty of spirit. 


Birtb anb aso^boob. 

Robert Owen was born at Newtown, Montgomery- 
shire, on the 14th May 1771, and was the youngest but 
one of seven children. His father, a native of Welsh- 
pool, had been brought up to the saddlery business. 
His mother, whose maiden name was Williams, was 
the daughter of a farmer in the neighbourhood of 
Newtown, which was then a neat, clean, beautifully- 
situated country town. 

Judging from all we can learn of him, at this early 
period, Robert Owen was an active, cheerful, and 
intelligent boy. His school time was necessarily short, 
but he was fond of learning, assiduous in his attend- 

8 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

ance, quick at his lessons, and he acquired at a very 
early age a taste for reading. In a country village 
people of all ages and conditions are known to each 
other. The desire in young Owen for books became 
known to the clergyman, the physician, and the 
lawyer of the place, who permitted him to borrow any 
book they possessed. In this way he read " Robin- 
son Crusoe," " Philip Quarles," " Pilgrim's Progress," 
Harvey's " Meditations among the Tombs," and 
Young's "Night Thoughts," as well as Richardson's 
novels, and other stories. 

While still very young he was, in accordance with 
a neighbourly arrangement, allowed to serve in the 
shop of a tradesman of the town. This, however, was 
but temporary, as it had been settled that when he 
attained the age of ten he should go to London, 
his eldest brother having settled there as a saddler at 
No. 8 1 High Holborn. 

This was an early age at which to face the world, 
and a difficulty, the extent of which cannot be easily 
appreciated in the present day, lay in the very front 
of his undertaking, namely, the distance between 
Newtown and London. Those who can realise the 
discomfort and inconvenience of a long journey by 
coach in the old days, will be able to understand what 
anxiety this must have caused his parents. But in such 
cases, to those who are not blessed with affluence, sub- 
mission to painful and hazardous separations becomes 
a necessity. He himself faced the matter cheerfully. 
He had forty shillings over and above his expenses, 
and felt, in the possession of this sum, fit to cope with 
and overcome all the difficulties that lay before him. 
The London coach started from Shrewsbury, at which 

Birth and Boyhood. 9 

place he commenced his journey at night. Perched 
on the roof, he was whirled through the darkness in 
the direction of the metropolis, little dreaming of the 
remarkable future that lay before him. The proprietor 
of the coach was disposed to give the young traveller 
an inside place, but a voice from the interior of the 
conveyance protested against the intrusion of an out- 
side passenger, so he had to be contented with a cold 
and sleepless journey in the night air on the outside. 
** It was dark," he remarks, " and I could not see the 
objector, nor discover how crowded the coach might 
be ; coaches then carried six inside. I was glad 
afterwards I did not know who this man was, and 
therefore I could not be angry with him, as I should 
have been, for refusing admission to a child." 

On his arrival he was welcomed by his brother and 
his sister-in-law, but having procured, through the 
interest of some friends, a situation with Mr James 
M^Guffog, who carried on a large drapery business at 
Stamford in Lincolnshire, he left London within six 
weeks. The conditions of his engagement with 
M'Guffog were, that he should serve the first year for 
nothing, the second for a salary of eight pounds, arid 
the third for an advance to ten pounds. 

Owen speaks of M'Guffog as of a man possessed of 
many excellent qualities. He was honest, methodical, 
and liberal in his conduct. His business was respect- 
able and large, the house orderly and comfortable. 
He had originally been a Scotch pedlar, and had 
commenced life with a few shillings and a basket, 
which in a little time he changed for a pack ; ulti- 
mately becoming a large and comparatively a rich 
trader, respected and trusted by all who knew him. 

lO Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

A man of good principles, traversing the lonely places 
of the land, would, with a mind predisposed toward 
such reflections, find, like Wordsworth's traveller, time 
for serious and elevating thought, when, the petty 
cares of trade for the time forgotten, he saw, at the 
close of his day's tramping, 

" The hills 
Grow larger in the darkness ; all alone 
Beheld the stars come out above his head." 

Mr M'Guffog was apparently a man to feel the influence 
of such scenes. He had read and studied in addition 
to punctually attending to his business. He was 
evidently qualified to win the respect of those with 
whom he had intercourse, and Owen speaks of the 
confidence he gained from his equals and from his 
poorer neighbours. Many of his customers "were 
among the highest nobility in the kingdom, and often 
six or seven carriages belonging to them were at the 
same time in attendance at the premises. His shop 
was, in fact, a kind of town rendezvous for the nobility 
and principal gentry of the neighbourhood when they 
visited the town." 

In this position Owen acquired much experience, 
which he accounted of great value when he in after- 
life became a manufacturer and commercial man on 
a large scale. What, however, was perhaps of most 
service to him as a youth of active and inquiring 
mind, was the well-selected library in his employer's 
house, to which he had unrestricted access. The 
hours during which he was most busily engaged were 
from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon. 
During the rest of the day his time was pretty much 
at his own disposal, so that he read about five hours^ 


Birth and Boyhood. 1 1 

daily, during the three years he remained at Stam- 
ford. His habit of early rising, which never left him 
during any period of his long life, was of great 
advantage to him in this respect. One of the 
entrances of Burleigh Park stood near the town, and 
in summer his chief pleasure was to go into the 
park to walk, read, think, and study, among its noble 
avenues. " Very often," he says, " I was in the park 
from between three and four in the morning until 
eight, and then again in the evening from six or 
seven to nearly dark. I had transcribed many of 
Seneca's moral precepts into a book, which I carried 
in my pocket, and to ponder over these in the park 
was one of my pleasurable occupations. In this park, 
which I made my study, I read many volumes of the 
most useful works I could obtain. At the early hour 
mentioned the only person I used to see taking his 
first walk for the day was the Earl of Exeter, the 
uncle, I believe, of his successor who married the 
miller's daughter, the subject of Tennyson's exquisite 
poem, and who was the father of the present marquis."* 
" I often recur," he adds, " to the recollection of the 
many happy healthy hours I enjoyed in that park, 
healthy both in body and mind. Frequently in the 
morning I hailed the rising sun, and in the evening 
watched its setting and the rising of the moon." 

There is some uncertainty as to whether Robert 
Owen stayed three or four years in Stamford. He 

* It will be seen that Owen's acquaintance with Tenny- 
son was not very intimate. I need not say that the " Miller's 
Daughter," and the "Village Maiden" who was led wondering 
from hall to hall by her noble lover, were not one and the same 

12 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

was very much pressed to remain by Mr M*Guffog, 
but he was anxious to see more of the world, and 
desirous of understanding more of the business in 
which he was engaged than he could by remaining in 
one locality ; besides, it is natural to suppose that 
after so long an absence he was anxious to see his 
family, attachment to his parents, brothers, and sisters 
being a prominent feature in his disposition. 

When he left Stamford he carried with him high 
recommendations as to character. With these he 
started for London, and again took up his residence at 
his brother's house, remaining there for some months. 
At about this time he visited his parents in North 
Wales, and he expresses himself very much gratified 
by the hearty welcome and the kindness he met with 
from all his old neighbours. 

His next situation was with Messrs Flint & Palmer, 
large retail drapers, whose place of business was 
situated on old London Bridge, at the Borough end. 
This was one of the most respectable trades conducted 
on the ready-money principle. Here he had £2^ a 
year besides his board and lodging, and with this sum 
he considered himself "rich and independent." It may 
be remarked here that he never during his life drank 
ordinary intoxicants or smoked, or contracted any of 
those habits common among young men. His work was 
very hard. The assistants were up and had breakfast 
so as to be prepared for attending to customers by 
eight o'clock, and during all the spring months busi- 
ness went on till ten or half-past ten at night. The 
day's work did not finish even then, as it was the 
custom to put the goods hurriedly by during the 
day, so that at eleven o'clock, when the doors were 

Birth and Boyhood, 1 3 

closed, nearly everything had to be refolded, and 
replaced on the shelves in proper order for the next 
day's business. This frequently kept them up until 
two o'clock, and he says that '^ after being actively 
engaged on foot all day from eight o'clock in the 
morning, I have scarcely been able, with the aid of 
the banisters, to go up stairs to bed." This alarmed 
him, on the ground of his health, as well it might ; 
and if it be remembered that young women, as well 
as young men, were thus employed, he certainly does 
not use too strong a term when he speaks of it as 
"slavery." One curious custom at Messrs Flint & 
Palmer's is worth mentioning. " Dressing," he says, 
" was then no slight affair. Boy as I was, I had to 
wait my turn for the hairdresser to powder, pomatum, 
and curl my hair, for I had two large curls on each 
side, and a stiff pigtail, and until this was very nicely 
done no one could think of appearing before a cus- 
tomer." Fearing the effect this drudgery might have 
on him, he applied to his friends to procure him 
another situation ; but when the spring trade closed 
his work became much more pleasant and easy. He 
now enjoyed his life so well that he forgot his request 
concerning a new situation, but nevertheless an offer 
of one came to him from Manchester. Mr Satterfield, 
of that town, who carried on a wholesale and retail 
business in St Ann's Square, offered him an advance 
to £dp a year, with board and lodging. It was 
a first-class house, and, accepting the proposal, he 
parted from his London employers, though not with- 
out some regret, as they had personally been very 
kind to him. 

Robert Owen always regarded himself as fortunate, 

14 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

not only in the personal character of his employers, 
but in the character of the people who constituted the 
bulk of their customers. ' In Stamford, these were 
to a great extent of the higher class ; while on Lon- 
don Bridge, they were the ordinary crowd of street 
customers, — working people, shopkeepers, and others. 
In Manchester, they were made up of the middle- 
class, — merchants and manufacturers ; " and thus," 
he says, " in Mr Satterfield's I became acquainted 
with the habits and ideas of this class." In this way 
he had, at an early age, constant opportunities of 
observing the conduct and language of people differ- 
ing very much from each other ; and as he was always 
ready in his appreciation of what was excellent in 
whomsoever he had to deal with, it is not surprising 
that the variety of his experience during this part of 
his life had considerable influence on the formation 
of his own manners. ' Always quiet and unobtrusive 
in what he had to say, always considerate of the 
thoughts and wishes of others, and never in the slightest 
degree impatient or overbearing, all who came near 
him felt that he was a man to be liked, to be trusted, 
and to be loved, if for nothing else, simply for the 
manly, and at the same time child-like, earnestness 
which characterised all he did and said. ' 

He remained in the employment of Mr Satterfield 
until he was eighteen years of age. As this period 
he became, in the course of business, acquainted with 
a wire-worker named Jones, who supplied Mr Satter- 
field with wire bonnet frames. It being Owen's duty 
to receive these frames from the maker, Jones told 
him of the new discoveries which were then being 
applied to cotton spinning, and added that he was 

Starts as his Own Master. 1 5 

doing all he could to get a knowledge of these, 
believing there was a fortune to be made in that 
direction. After some time he informed him he had 
seen certain of these new machines at work, and felt 
satisfied that he could make them. He proposed 
that the young draper should join him, and bring 
into the venture one hundred pounds, as with 
even so small a sum to start with the profits alone 
would serve to increase and continue the business. 
At the present day this amount of capital looks so 
trivial as to seem almost ridiculous, but in connec- 
tion with the cotton trade those days were the 
days of romance. Robert Owen borrowed from his 
brother William the required sum, gave his employer 
notice of his intention to leave, and entered into 
partnership with Jones. 


Starts as bts ©wn /Raster* 

To understand the important and ambitious step 
mentioned at the conclusion of the last chapter, and 
taken by Owen at the age of eighteen, the man and 
the time must be considered in relation to each other. 
Robert Owen, at his entrance into manhood, was, 
from all we can learn concerning this period of his 
life, [singularly quick and clear in his apprehension ; 
steady, punctual, and conscientious in the performance 
of his duties ; and anxious in the discovery of improved 
methods. ) Hargreaves, Arkwright, Crompton, and 

1 6 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

Watt had placed their wonderful inventions at the 
disposal of their countrymen, and these inventions 
were daily receiving a more extended application. 
The inventors created new conditions of work, which 
led in all directions to new acquisitions of fortune. 
Fox Bourne, in his "Romance of Trade," quoting 
from Dr Aikin, gives an account of the mode of life 
that existed among the Manchester manufacturers 
previous to this, which contrasts very strangely with 
what prevails at the present time, and which must 
have been very different from the habits and usages 
of the same class in 1789, when Owen entered on his 
first partnership. " An eminent manufacturer of that 
age," says Aikin, " used to be in his warehouse before 
six in the morning, accompanied by his children and 
apprentices. At seven they all came in to breakfast, 
which consisted of one huge dish of water pottage, 
made of oatmeal, water, and a little salt, boiled thick 
and poured into a dish. At the side was a pan or 
basin of milk, and the master and the apprentices, 
each with a wooden spoon in his hand, without loss of 
time, dipped into the same dish, and thence into the 
milk pan, and as soon as it was finished they all 
returned to their work." 

In 1789 this state of things was much altered, but 
the general change was shown by individual instances 
which must have been constantly occurring within 
Owen's own knowledge ; and where these were 
sudden and remarkable, they were no doubt frequently 
subjects of conversation among those with whom he 
associated. His partnership, therefore, and his new 
business were, in the circumstances, and considering 
his character, the most natural things imaginable. 

Starts as his Own Master, 1 7 

He and his partner, who seems to have been an 
ignorant and unbusiness-like man, arranged with a 
builder for the erection of a machine-shop, with rooms 
for cotton spinning, and in a short time they had 
about forty men at work making machines, with 
abundant credit for the materials necessary to carry 
on their operations. Owen soon found that Jones 
was deficient in the kind of business knowledge which 
was most needed. He did not himself understand 
practically anything about the machinery they were 
making, but he understood book-keeping and general 
financial matters, and also how to overlook the men 
they employed. They manufactured what were called 
" mules," and though the business was doing well, and 
succeeding under his intelligent and attentive super- 
vision, he seems nevertheless to have been anxious to 
get out of it in consequence of his partner's incapa- 
city. While Owen was in this frame of mind, a man 
with some considerable capital agreed to join with 
Jones ; and as they preferred having the business 
entirely in their own hands, after some hesitation 
they proposed terms which he at once accepted. The 
offer for his share in the business was six " mule " 
machines, such as they were making for sale, a reel, 
and a " making-up " machine, which was used to pack 
the yarn, when finished in skeins, into bundles for 
the market. 

He was now nineteen years of age, and had to face 
the world with, so far, only a promise of the machines 
he had bargained for as the price of his retirement 
from the firm. When the time for settlement came, 
instead of six he only got three of the " mules " for 
which he had stipulated ; and with these, and the 


i 8 iLife^ TivisSy dnd Labours of Robert Oivetl. 

other articles enumerated above, he commenced busi- 
ness in Ancoats Lane, Manchester. To supply his 
"mules," his reel, and his making-up machine, he 
bought what are called rovings, which he converted 
into fine yarn, and sold to the manufacturers of 
muslin. In his " Recollections of My Life," he 
informs us that when he was with Mr M'Guffog, in 
Stamford, the chief, if not the only, manufacturer of 
muslins was a Mr Oldknow, of the neighbourhood of 
Stockport, who commenced this branch of the cotton 
manufacture about the year 1780. To distinguish 
these from the Indian manufacture, the maker called 
them British twill muslins. They were less than a 
yard wide, and sold in the Stamford shops at from 
9s. to 9s. 6d. a yard, being much in demand. At the 
time when Owen wrote (1857), an article of much 
better quality might be purchased at 2d. a yard. 

With his " mules " and other machinery, and the 
labour of three men, Owen made about ;£^300 a year 
profit, and considered that he was doing very well. 
From this point he might have gone on increasing his 
machinery as his profits increased, but such a process 
would have been very slow at first, and no doubt he 
felt that in a town like Manchester, where large 
amounts were being constantly invested in cotton 
manufacture, a connection with a large firm, even 
though it were for a time as a servant, would be 
preferable to a long struggle as a small employer. A 
chance soon offered. A man named Lee left his 
situation as manager in the factory of Mr Drinkwater, 
to take a partnership in another concern. Mr Dfink- 
water advertised for a manager in the Manchester 
paper, and Robert Owen at once applied for the post. 

Starts as his Own Master. 19 

Mr Drinkwater, struck by the youthfulness of his 
appearance, asked him his age, and what salary he 
required. "Three hundred a year," was the reply. 
"What !" exclaimed the questioner ; "three hundred 
a year. I have had this morning I know not how 
many applying for the situation, and do not think that 
all they asked would, together, amount to what you 
require." " I cannot," answered the young applicant, 
" be governed by what others ask, and I cannot take 
less. I am now making that sum by my own busi- 
ness." This statement was followed by an offer to 
show his business and books. Mr Drinkwater went 
with him, inspected them, and after inquiry as to 
character, the bargain was struck, Mr Drinkwater at 
the same time taking the whole of his machinery at 
cost price. 

The number of people employed in the mill of 
which Owen had now to take the superintendence 
was about five hundred. Robert Owen confesses 
that the acceptance of this new position led to serious 
doubts as to whether or not he had committed a rash 
and inexcusable act. He was young, and but im- 
perfectly educated ; he was shy, and almost timid in 
his intercourse with strangers, when such intercourse 
went beyond his business duties. The more he 
thought of these things, the more he mistrusted his 
own power. But he had accepted the position with 
his eyes open, and whatever came of it, the struggle 
to succeed in it must be made. 

When the duties he had undertaken to discharge 
are considered, one need not wonder that his resolu- 
tion should to some extent give way. He had, in the 
first instance, to assume the command of a mill with- 

20 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

out a previous introduction to the workpeople. He 
had to purchase the raw material, to fit up the mill 
with some new machinery, to manufacture the cotton 
into yarn, to sell it when manufactured, to keep the 
accounts, to pay the wages, ("and, in fact, take the 
whole responsibility of the first establishment for 
spinning fine cotton that had ever been erected,/ as 
successor to one of the most scientific managers of the 

The account given of the mode in which he over- 
came the difficulties of his new position is interesting. 
" I inspected," he says, " everything very minutely, 
examined the drawings of the machinery, as left by 
Mr Lee [his predecessor] ; and these were of great 
use to me. I was at the mill with the first in the 
morning, and I locked up the premises at night, 
taking the key with me. I continued this silent 
inspection and superintendence day by day for six 
weeks ; saying merely yes or no to the questions as 
to what was to be done or otherwise, and during that 
period I did not give one direct order about anything." 

The factory at that time had attained to a higher 
perfection than any other in the production of " fine 
counts," but Owen soon succeeded in greatly improv- 
ing the quality, and as a natural consequence increased 
the business and its profits. The proprietor no doubt 
kept himself well informed as to the progress made. 
He visited the mill seldom, but the improvement of 
his reputation as a spinner, combined with the steady 
gentlemanly demeanour of the young manager, must 
have convinced him that he had secured the services 
of no ordinary man. Robert Owen makes a very 
frank acknowledgment of his own deficiencies in 


Starts as his Oivn Master. 2 1 

education ; stating that he at this time spoke, 
ungrammatically, a kind of Welsh-English, and was 
awkward in his manners. This, however, may be an 
exaggeration, the result of a too acute self-conscious- 
ness, as in after-life he wrote with correctness, and 
spokfe without any peculiarity of accent. 

At the end of the first six months, Mr Drinkwater, 
who had not previously asked him to visit his house, 
sent him an invitation to his country residence, 
stating that he had something of importance to 
communicate. Owen obeyed this call with consider- 
able anxiety. When he arrived, he was ushered into 
Mr Drinkwater's " room of business," when that gentle- 
man addressed him thus : — " Mr Owen, I have sent 
for you to propose a matter of business important to 
you and to me. I have watched your proceedings, 
and know them well since you came into my service, 
and I am well pleased with all you have done. I 
now wish you to make up your mind to remain 
permanently with me. I have agreed to give you 
three hundred pounds for this year; and if you consent 
to remain with me, I will give you four hundred for 
the next year, five hundred for the third, and, as I 
have two sons growing up( the fourth year you shall 
join them in partnership with me, and you shall have 
a fourth of the profits, and you know now what they 
are likely to bey What do you think of this proposal ?" 
The reply was, " I think it most liberal, and willingly 
agree to it." "Then," said Mr Drinkwater, "the 
agreement shall be made out while you are here, and 
you shall take a copy of it home with you." This 
was a satisfactory business very rapidly transacted. 
Well might the manager declare that, when both 

22 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

copies of the agreement were prepared and signed, 
he returned to Manchester "well pleased with his 
visit." (He was born in 1771, and this event took 
place in 1790, so that he had not quite completed his 
twentieth year, and already a fortunate concurrence of 
circumstances, united with his own good character and 
intelligence, had advanced him so far on the high road 
to fortune that he might, without being over-sanguine, 
conclude that a prosperous future lay before him.) 

At this interview he had also conferred upon him 
the power of doing what he thought proper for the 
improvement of the business. He at once began 
operations by which he increased the fineness of the 
yarn ; and to distinguish the new from the old stock, 
much of which was left by his predecessor, and much 
produced upon the plan which remained in operation 
after his departure, he marked the "bundles" or parcels 
of new yarn with his own name. With this improve- 
ment in fineness he easily got the produce of the mill 
into the market, and obtained for it a high reputation 
among the muslin manufacturers of the country. In 
pursuing this branch of the cotton trade, it was 
necessary that he should be particularly exact in the 
purchase of raw cotton, as none but the finest and 
best would answer his purpose ; and the constant 
efforts he made to get this gave him so great a 
skill in buying, that he came to be regarded as one 
of the best judges of cotton in the market. During 
this time, that is towards the close of 1790 or the 
beginning of 179 1, the first two packages of American 
Sea Island cotton came to England, and were placed 
in his hands that he might test their value by manu- 
facturing them into yarn. When finished as yarn, the 

Starts as his Own Master, 23 

colour was so bad that he sold a portion at a very low 
price to a Scotch muslin manufacturer named Craig. 
This man, however, soon returned to procure as much 
more of it as possible, the bleaching having given it 
an appearance and quality better than any produced 
up to that time. 

Continuing his improvements, in about a year after 
he commenced the management of Mr Drinkwater's 
factory he had acquired such a knowledge of the various 
qualities of cotton, and had so improved the accuracy 
of the- machinery used and the correctness of all the 
processes through which the material had to pass in 
order to be turned into finished yarn, that he increased 
the fineness from 120 "counts" to upwards of 300, — 
which means, that he spun out of a pound of cotton 
that number of "hanks," each hank containing 840 
yards of thread. For this yarn the purchaser paid 50 
per cent, above the list price, and even at this price he 
could not, when the mill was in full work, meet the 
demand for these fine counts.* A large muslin yarn 
trade grew out of this, and that the profitableness of 
these yarns may be understood, he informs us that he 
gave Ss. for a pound of cotton, which when finished 
into fine thread for the muslin weaver extended to 
near 250 hanks, for which he got from the manu- 
facturers £g. 1 8s. 6d. per pound. He adds that he 
brought these counts afterwards to upwards of 
300, and says' that if he had been able to do this at 

■* The yarns were made up for the market in 5-lb. bundles, 
the "hanks" were 840 yards each, and the "counts" were 
according to the number of hanks in the bundle ; and the list 
price, was a point below which inferior goods fell, and above 
which superior goods rose. 

24 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

the time he realised the price stated, he could have 
made above £^^6 on one pound of yarn. The only 
real competitor Mr Drinkwater had in these fine yarns 
was a Mr Buchanan, and his goods were so much 
inferior, that while the yarns spun by Robert Owen 
realised 50 per cent, above the list price, Buchanan's 
only realised 10 per cent, above it. 

The disastrous year of 1792 brought no change 
in the relationship between Robert Owen and his 
employer. Mr Drinkwater was rich, and stood the 
strain firmly, whilst many of his neighbours were 
sunk or stranded. So satisfied was he with his 
manager, that he put a factory he had at Northwich, 
in Cheshire, under his management also, leaving the 
old manager in his place, but giving Owen the control 
of the mill, to which he attended by riding over to 
Northwich once a fortnight. 

Things were going on with him as prosperously 
as he could wish, when an unexpected circumstance 
broke the connection, and again threw Robert Owen 
loose on the world to pursue his fortunes as best he 
could. Mr Drinkwater had a daughter of marriage- 
able age, and her hand was sought by a large 
muslin manufacturer, a man of wealth and high 
standing in the business. He was accepted by 
the father, and, after some reluctance, by the 
daughter ; and as he was ambitious that he and his 
intended father-in-law should stand among the fore- 
most of the cotton lords of the district, he was 
very anxious that Mr Drinkwater's agreement with 
Owen as to a partnership should be cancelled, that 
the spinning concern might belong altogether to 
the family. Robert Owen had heard hints of this. 

The Dying of the Old. 2 5 

and when he was sent for by Mr Drinkwater he put 
into his pocket the agreement which was to take effect 
the following year. When he arrived he was at once 
informed by his employer of the intended marriage of 
his daughter with Mr Oldknow, and of the desire of 
that gentleman that the entire business of both houses 
should remain in the family. He then inquired on 
what condition he would give up the agreement, and 
retain the management of the mill. " You have now/' 
he said, " ;^SOO a year, and whatever sum you name 
you shall have." '' I have brought the agreement 
with me," replied the manager, at the same time 
producing it, ** and I now put it in the fire, as I never 
will connect myself with any parties who are not 
desirous to be united with me ; but under these 
circumstances I cannot remain your manager with 
any salary you can give." The agreement was 
burned on the spot, and Owen returned to Man- 
chester, simply promising that he would remain at 
his post until a suitable successor could be found. 


XCbe ©sing of tbe ©lb. 

In order to understand the contrast between the old 
and the new systems of industrial life in Great Britain, 
it will be useful to draw two distinct lines, one at 
1770, the year before Owen was born, and the other 
at 1790, when he may be said to have commenced life 
as a manufacturer. )Thc period dating back from 

26 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

1770 may be described as one of hand labour, when 
men, women, and children, assisted by certain crude 
mechanical appliances, performed the whole of the 
work necessary to feed, clothe, and shelter the popu- 
lation. Human labour was the supreme element in 
production, the most important in all calculations 
regarding wealth and progress. From 1790 the man 
has been undergoing displacement to such an extent, 
that at present the machine has taken the first place, 
in a way to alter the basis of all calculations as to the 
production and accumulation of wealth. 

In the old days, human labour and the condition of 
the labourer had to be first considered. Now the first 
consideration is how machinery can be applied where 
work has to be done, and how it shall be regulated in 
its operations so as to produce the most profitable 
result. The interim of twenty years between these 
two periods was one of unprecedented change. Old 
methods of work were rapidly giving place to new 
methods ; our captains of industry were arming them- 
selves with the new weapons forged by Watt the 
humble machinist, Hargreaves the Lancashire car- 
penter, Arkwright the barber, Crompton the son of 
a working man who divided his labour between his 
little farm and his cottage loom, and others who, like 
Whitney the private tutor in America, were overcom- 
ing new difficulties by new appliances, as wonderful in 
their complicated construction as by their opportune- 
ness and almost miraculous concurrence in point of 
time. These twenty years did not so much comprise 
a period of struggle for mastery in commercial competi- 
tion, as a preparation for the mighty and ceaseless battle 
that has been waged from that time to the present day. 

The Dying of the Old, 27 

Prior to 1770 the progress of manufacturing indus- 
try was slow. The foreign trade was scarcely worth 
taking into account. All figures given at this period 
were more or less unreliable guesses. The accounts 
of the Custom House were badly kept, there was 
much smuggling, and Ireland was treated in the 
returns of trade as a foreign country; while down to 
1798 quantities only were given and not prices ; 
besides which, a large proportion of our exports con- 
sisted of produce, not manufactures, as corn, wool, &c. 
In the absence of a foreign trade of any consequence, 
the people depended for employment principally on 
the home market ; and as nearly all labour was hand 
labour, employment extended as population increased. 
Making allowance, therefore, for occasional plagues 
and failures of crops, the business of the country 
would be much the same one year as another. The 
production and consumption would balance each 
other; and, in proportion to the population, the 
balance of accumulated capital would be little more 
than was necessary to supply the new demands occa- 
sioned by an increase of the people. Speculation in 
trade was scarcely known, — there was no new com- 
modity to speculate in, no new markets to compete 
for, no rapid fortunes of mushroom growth to be 
striven after. 

There were large flocks of sheep, because wool was 
needed for home use and for foreign export, and 
therefore mutton was abundant and cheap. The 
workers combined small farms with their spinning, 
weaving, and other occupations ; and therefore bacon, 
eggs, milk, vegetables, and other household supplies 
were home productions, and by the masses of the 

28 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

people easy to be obtained in moderate sufficiency. 
Panics in trade only occurred when a plague or a 
famine scourged the land ; and even then, as mere 
matter of loss of profit to employers, or insufficiency 
of wages to the workers, they were not severely felt, 
except in rare instances. What we now understand 
by the word " business " was unknown. The manu- 
factures were for the most part domestic, and were 
carried on in the houses of the people. The manu- 
facturer employed a group of journeymen and a few 
apprentices, the number of the latter being appor- 
tioned by law to the number of the former. In this 
way the proportion of workers in each trade was 
balanced, according to the relative growth of each ; 
and as there were no sudden displacements of labour 
by the introduction of machinery, as years went on 
old habits and methods of life were preserved, while 
the relation between employers and employed, com- 
mencing under an indentured apprenticeship, usually 
for seven years, and continued under a system of 
journeymanship, became a kind of family relation. 
As a rule, with personal knowledge there was personal 
respect, though not without those occasional dis- 
agreements which opposing interests will sometimes 
beget, however carefully they may be regulated. 
The employer, who had himself passed through an 
apprenticeship in the workshop, in most cases lived 
carefully, and saved a portion of his profits. With 
this he provided for the extension of his trade, adding 
room to room, or shed to shed, as demand for his 
commodities increased, employing as he went on a 
few more journeymen and taking one or two more 
apprentices. When ordinary slackness of trade oc- 

The Dying of the Old, 29 

curred, it was seldom accompanied by absolute dis- 
missal. Each got less to do, but as a rule all got 
something ; .while a general depression, out of such a 
relation of friendliness as the everyday life of the 
workshop begot, led to such neighbourly help as pre- 
vented the most necessitous workers from throwing 
themselves on the poor-rates as a last and only 
resource. Trade was healthy, because it grew natur- 
ally by the pressure of its own requirements ; and it 
did so in the hands of men who, being practised in it, 
knew what these requirements were, and therefore 
fitted the increased power of supply to the demand 
of the market. Production, depending as it did on 
manual labour, could not be on a sudden rapidly 
extended, as such extension would require a sudden 
increase of skilled labour. To obtain this was im- 
possible, and even though it had been possible by 
immigration to procure this increase, the new comers 
would have been consumers, and could not have 
glutted the general market as does machinery, which 
produces without consuming. 

Gaskell, in his useful work on "Artisans and 
Machinery," throws light on the changes made in the 
condition of the people, in what are now called the 
manufacturing districts, by the introduction of ma- 
chinery. "In the year 1770," he says, quoting from 
William Ratcliff, " the land of our township (Mellor, 
fourteen miles from Manchester) was occupied by 
between fifty and sixty farmers ; rent, to the best of 
my recollection, did not exceed IDs. per statute acre ;* 

* Mr Pitt, in 1798, twenty-nine years later, valued the land of 
England at an average of 12s. per acre. 

30 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

and out of these fifty or sixty farmers, there were 
only six or seven who raised their rents directly from 
the produce of their farms. All the rest got their 
rent partly in some branch of trade, such as spinning 
or weaving woollen, linen, or cotton. The cottagers 
were employed entirely in this manner, except for a 
few weeks in harvest. Being one of those cottagers, 
and intimately acquainted with all the rest, as well as 
the farmers, I am better able to relate particularly 
how the change from the old system of hand-labour 
to the new one of machinery operated in raising the 
price of land. Cottage rents at that time, with con- 
venient loom-shop and a small garden attached, were 
from one and a half to t\vo guineas per annum. The 
father of a family would earn from eight shillings to 
half a guinea at his loom, and his sons, if he had one 
or two or three alongside him, six or eight shillings 
per week each ; but the great sheet-anchor of all 
cottages and small farms was the labour attached to 
the hand-wheel, and when it is considered that it 
required six or eight hands to prepare and spin" yarn, 
of any of the three materials I have mentioned, suffi- 
cient for the consumption of one weaver, this shows 
clearly the inexhaustible source there was for labour 
for every person from the age of seven to eighty years 
(who retained their sight and could move their hands) 
to earn their bread, say one to three shillings per 
week, without going to the parish." 

From 1778 to 1803 was the golden age of spinning 
and weaving, according to William Ratcliff. The new 
machinery had superseded the spinning-wheels, and 
weaving therefore was unchecked by want of weft. 
The weaving still went on in new loom-shops added 

The Dying of the Old, 3 1 

to the cottages, and all were filled ; cotton, cotton, 
and nothing but cotton, was in demand, and thus 
all were busy and well-to-do before the great all- 
devouring factory, filled with steam looms, swallowed 
up everything else. 

Up to this time the principal staple trade was wool 
and woollen fabrics, which was carried on, as Postle- 
thwayth says in his " Universal Dictionary of Trade 
and Commerce," " more or less " in almost every part 
of the kingdom, some making one species of goods, 
some another. " From the multitude of people there 
is a great home consumption of all sorts for their use 
in all places ; so no part of the nation making every 
kind or having near at hand the materials necessary 
for the particular kind they do manufacture, they are 
obliged to send for such articles as they want to the 
counties where they are made, or to London, which 
is the centre of their commerce. This occasions so 
general an intercourse of trade and correspondence 
among ourselves for the native commodities of our 
own country, that the inland trade of no other 
nation in Europe, perhaps, is equal to it.'* Postle- 
thwayth's huge book, crammed with information, 
describes with much detail and fulness the various 
trades carried on, and the principal places for 
each branch of our textile fabrics. " The manu- 
factures called Manchester wares, such as fustians, 
cottons, tapes, incles, &c., are sent on pack-horses to 
London, Bristol, Liverpool, for exportation, and also 
to the wholesale haberdashers for home consumption, 
whence the other towns of England are likewise 
served, or by the Manchester men themselves, who 
travel from town to town throughout the kingdom." 

32 Life^ Times ^ and LAibours of Robert Oiuen. 

Of these goods, we are gravely informed that at the 
date of the publication of the book (I757^ "they 
make at Manchester. Bolton, and the neighbouring 
places, above £600,000 worth annually." The writer 
tells us also that coarse woollen goods called "double- 
dozens and kersevs are largely manufactured in York- 
shire, and are carried to the consumers in the same 
manner as the Manchester wares ; and as these are 
used for clothing the poorer sort of people in other 
counties, even where finer clothes are made, so the 
shopkeepers in these very counties of Yorkshire are 
obliged to buy the fine medley cloths of Wiltshire 
and Gloucestershire, the stuffs and serges of Xor.vich 
and Exeter, the duroys and silk druggets of London 
and Taunton, for the wear of the people of better 
condition. In like manner the traders of Devon^aire 
and Somersetshire buy the fine woollen cloths of 
Wilts and Gloucester; and their camblets, crapes, and 
women's stuffs from Norwich ; their stockings uom 
Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, York- 
shire, or London." 

London was, as it now is, the great centre, the 
several counties sending large quantities of their 
goods there, and getting the goods of other counties 
in return ; and besides all this there were the great 
fairs of Stourbridge, Bristol, West Chester, Exeter, 
and Woodboroughhill, at which a great traffic was 
carried on. Just as this extensive and active inter- 
change? of manufactured goods was conducted, so was 
the exchange of raw material, wool, yarn, and other 
manufacturing commodities. " The fine-fleece wool 
of Lincoln, Leicester, and Northamptonshire, is carried 
on pack-horses south to Cirencester and Tedbury, in 

The Dying of the Old, 33 

Gloucestershire, where it is bought up and afterwards 
spun into yarn for the clothiers of Wilts, Gloucester, 
and Somersetshire, to mix with the Spanish wool in 
making their broad cloths ; eastward the same is 
carried to Norwich and Bury for the manufacture of 
those parts ; and northward to the farther parts of 
Yorkshire, and even into Westmoreland and Cumber- 
land, where it is made into fine yarn, which is brought 
up to London to the amount at least of lOO horse- 
packs a week, for the making of fine druggets and 
camblets in Spitalfields." By this description it will 
be seen how active the home trade of the country was 
in 'production and distribution, as well as steady and 
utivaiying in its operations and its results. Domestic 
industries were everywhere promoted and encouraged, 
ana the population was employed, without at any time 
being seriously disturbed, in spinning and weaving, 
and otherwise preparing goods for the market, and 
exchanging them throughout the country. In 1750, 
before the old habits of trade or of life were interfered 
with, the sum expended on the poor was a few pounds 
under ;6^690,oc)0, which rapidly augmented after machin- 
ery began to be applied. In 1776 it was over ;^694,ooo, 
whilst in 1783 above two millions sterling were thus 
expended ; an alarming advance which, as year followed 
year, amounted, notwithstanding the vigorous attempts 
made to hold it in check, in 1880 to the extraordinary 
sum of over eight millions sterling ; and what makes 
this increase of the poverty of the working people of 
England the more remarkable is, that the foreign trade 
of the country, which in 1782 is given at a little over 
twenty-three millions sterling, import and export, is 
returned in 1880 as over 634 millions sterling. 

34 ^(/^, Tillies^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

The contrast given here is not intended to indicate 
any preference for the older times, or any desire to 
see restored what has passed away beyond our power 
of recall. Much of what has been changed has been 
improved ; while much that has been made worse 
may be fairly regarded as the result of a process of 
clmnge, and preparatory to a higher and better 
condition of things. Once the necessary machinery 
was invented, it would have been madness to attempt 
to continue the old household system of manufactur- 
ing. A more generous thoughtfulness, however, might 
have led to the establishment of a factory system 
unattended by the many grievous evils that we now 
shudder at as matters of history. Many of these 
have been done away with after much sharp conflict, 
and in time it may be counted on as certain that most 
of those yet remaining will disappear. 
( The great change in the manufacturing system of 
Great Britain may be truly regarded as a crisis of 
extreme danger. An alteration in the daily business 
life of the nation, which changed the occupations and 
modes of life of large masses of the people, dooming 
multitudes to poverty and unusual temptation, and 
conferring on others large gifts of fortune ; destroying 
family influence on one side, by superseding domestic 
employments and the salutary relations of home ; 
and, on the other side, so separating the employer 
from the worker, and so estranging both classes in 
regard to interests which had previously been almost 
identical, — the wonder is how the interruptions of the 
internal peace of the country, and the attacks on 
property by the suffering and discontented, are so few 
as they have been/ 

The Dying of the Old, \ l 3 

The interest attaching to Robert Owen's life win 
be found in the side he took, and the character of the 
battle he fought, for the purpose of lifting up those 
who suffered in this great change, and so directing the 
new forces as to give them a beneficent instead of a 
baneful tendency. He did not recommend at any 
period of his life the bringing back of the old, but the 
safe and equitable institution of the new. He did not 
fight against old oppressions, but rather against a 
new order of things fraught with mischief ; his object 
being to seek for the highest advantages for the 
whole of society from the new productive forces, 
for an equitable use of the new wealth then flowing 
into our manufacturing districts, and to establish ] 
such a system of education as might produce a moral I 
growth in the people at least equal to the growth of/ 
the nation in material wealth. It was no part of his 
policy to bring back what had passed away, but rather 
to understand and welcome the new, — not as it might 
force itself on the world in a conflict of greed and 
self - seeking, but modified and regulated by the 
wisdom and generosity of those who prize justice 
as the first necessity in the dealings of men ; who 
know how marked are the retributions for its neglect, 
and that 

" Even-handed justice 
Returns th' ingredients of the poisoned chalice 
To our own lips.'' 

36 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 


Birtb of tbe mew* 

The twenty years which followed Robert Owen's 
birth saw the close of the era which preceded the 
introduction of machinery, and the opening of that 
in which mere human labour became secondary and 
subordinate. The manner in which cotton factories 
sprang up on the banks of the rivers where water- 
power was available has been referred to, and also 
the rapidity with which the people were drawn into 
them. The change may be described as complete. 
Numbers of the old workers, unsuited by age to fall 
into the new arrangements, remained, and continued 
to work in connection with the handloom ; but the 
youth and life and growing activity of the manu- 
facturing industry passed into the mills or factories, 
and it is in these alone, and through them, that the 
progress of our huge textile industries is to be traced. 
In certain branches of factory industry the labour 
of young people was a necessity, but there existed a 
strong indisposition on the part of parents to allow 
their children to enter the factory gates. Frequently 
the population was thinly scattered about the places 
where available water-power made it most desirable 
to erect cotton mills, and therefore the inconvenience 
felt for want of child labour was very great, Indoor 
apprenticeship was the rule in connection with the 
small industries of the kingdom ; but in the factories 
this arrangement was impossible, as the factory 
owners did not profess to teach any handicraft, as 

Birth of the New, 2i7 

the old master did ; besides, it would have been 
difficult for a man to charge himself with the main- 
tenance and care of some hundreds of young people, 
to whom, from the press of business, he could pay 
little or no attention. The obstacle, however, had to 
be overcome, and the plan resorted to was to obtain 
as apprentices, from the various workhouses of the 
kingdom, as large a number of the pauper children 
as were required, and bind them under indenture 
to the foreman or manager under whose super- 
intendence they worked. They were bargained for 
and sent to their destination in droves ; the work- 
house authorities, glad enough to get rid of them, 
prudently stipulating that those who contracted for 
them should take a due proportion of the ailing and 
idiotic. When these children entered on the employ- 
ment at which they were to spend their lives, they 
were housed and bedded in sheds ; their food was of 
the poorest kind, and frequently insufficient; while 
the beds in which they slept (in consequence of the 
double shift system then commonly worked) were no 
sooner vacated by the day shift than the night shift 
took possession of them, and through this quick 
succession of occupants they were said never to get 
cold. J These poor creatures were unable to look after 
themselves, and, as there was no one near connected 
with them by ties of blood, they were entirely at the 
mercy of those who regarded them solely as imple- 
ments of labour. The records we possess of the 
treatment and suffering of these children are heart- 
rending in the extreme ; but bad as this state of 
things was, it remained unnoticed until the diseases 
bred among the sufferers spread alarm amongst the 

38 Life^ Tillies^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

people dwelling in the neighbourhood of the factories ; 
and thus, gradually, the general outside public were 
made aware of this new danger. 

Special facts need not be produced in proof of 
what is stated here. In John Fielden*s "Curse of the 
Factory System,'' in Gaskell's " Manufacturing Popu- 
lation," in a pamphlet by Robert Blencoe, — a frightful 
cripple who had himself been a factory apprentice, 
and knew and had suffered what he described, — 
we find accounts of this early system of factory 
apprenticeship, than which there is nothing more 
appalling in connection with the history of the 
British people. These apprentices were not only 
half-starved and neglected, but they were brutally 
flogged to keep them from sleeping at their work, 
while the ceaseless drudgery hurried them in crowds 
to their graves. Except in fitful discussions carried 
on by newspaper correspondents, little notice was 
taken of the growing abominations of the factory 
system. When they were mentioned with a view 
to their condemnation, cases were brought forward 
in which the children were treated with kindness 
and humanity. In 1796, however, a committee 
was appointed in Manchester, known as the " Man- 
chester Board of Health," and to this committee Dr 
Percival, president of the Manchester Literary and 
Philosophical Society, and a friend of Robert Owen, 
submitted for consideration certain points connected 
with the factories then springing up in all directions. 
The objects of the association on whose behalf he 
reported, were to prevent the generation of diseases, 
to obviate the spreading of these by contagion, and to 
shorten the duration of those in existence, by affording 

Birth of the New, 39 

the necessary aids and comforts to the sick. "In the 
prosecution of this necessary undertaking," he says, 
"the board have had their attention particularly 
directed to large cotton factories established in the 
town and neighbourhood of Manchester, and they 
feel it a duty incumbent on them to lay before the i 
public the result of their inquiries: — i. It appears 
that the children, and others who work in the large 
cotton factories, are peculiarly disposed to be affected 
by the contagion of fever, and that when the affection 
is received it is rapidly propagated, not only amongst 
those who are crowded together in the same apart- 
ments, but in the families and neighbourhoods to 
which they belong. 2. The large factories are gene- 
rally injurious to the constitution of those employed 
in them, even where no particular disease prevails, 
from the close confinement which is enjoined, from 
the debilitating effects of hot or impure air, and from 
the want of active exercises, which nature points out 
as essential in childhood and youth to invigorate the 
system, and to fit our species for the duties of man- 
kind. 3. The untimely labour of the night, and the 
protracted labour of the day, with respect to children, 
not only tend to diminish future expectations as to 
the general sum of life and industry, by impairing the 
strength and destroying the vital stamina of the 
rising generation, but it too often gives encourage- 
ment to idleness, extravagance, and profligacy of the 
parents, who, contrary to the order of nature, subsist 
by the oppression of their offspring. 4. It appears 
that the children employed in factories are generally 
debarred from all opportunity of education, and from 
moral and religious instruction. 5. From the excellent 


40 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

regulations that subsist in several factories, it appears 
that many of these evils may, in a considerable degree, 
be obviated ; and we are therefore warranted by ex- 
perience, and are assured that we shall have the 
support of the liberal proprietors of these factories, in 
proposing an application for Parliamentary aid (if 
other methods appear not likely to effect the purpose) 
to establish a general system of laws for the wise, 
humane, and equal government of all such works." 

This report throws a strong light on the first begin- 
ning of our present gigantic factory system. It makes 
known the fact that this system of itself, worked with- 
out a wise consideration for the welfare of the people, 
had a tendency to produce physical and moral evils of 
the worst kind. It proves also, that those who were 
profiting by these evils allowed them to strike root 
and flourish without any attempt to overcome them 
by general understanding, or salutary regulations 
calculated to prevent them from becoming rapidly 
developed, except in certain individual cases referred 
to in the report. The factory agitation which con- 
tinued so fiercely for so many years, may be said 
to have begun with this document, and the evils 
pointed out were those for the destruction of which 
the fight continued to the end, viz., the effect of the 
factory system in producing disease and causing 
deterioration of the people ; its prevention of educa- 
tion by double shifts and long hours ; the dreadful 
moral results produced by an indiscriminate herding 
together of young people of both sexes, without 
instruction or proper control. In grappling with 
these evils much opposition had to be encountered. 
It was insisted, that as the employer's capital was his 

Birth of the New, 41 

own, he had a right to use it as seemed best to him- 
self, without being interfered with by sentimentalists. 
It was urged, that if profits were large, risks were great ; 
and that any meddling, by increasing the cost of pro- 
duction, would throw the trade into the hands of 
foreign competitors unhampered by vexatious and 
costly interference. It was asserted, that as machinery 
was expensive, it ought not to be allowed to stand 
idle when it could be kept in motion ; and, to crown 
all, doctors and others who were said to have had 
experience in the factory districts, assured the world 
that the work was light and trivial, and added, rather 
than otherwise, to the health and happiness of the 
children engaged in it. 

This latter was a desperate step to take, but as 
factory villages and towns were growing rapidly, and 
as doctors and other professional persons were flocking 
to them for patronage, as tradesmen were for custom, 
any amount of testimony was obtainable through the 
position and influence of the factory owners. Another 
great difficulty lay in the fact that it was strongly 
inculcated in the minds of the workers, that any 
shortening of the hours of labour would be a diminu- 
tion of the wages earned, — a statement so plausible at 
first sight, that it is not to be wondered at if the people, 
who ought to have been the first to move, regarded with 
suspicion the honest and zealous reformers who took 
the field on behalf of the factory children of Great 
Britain. There was also a strong belief cultivated in 
the minds of the working men, that attempts at inter- 
ference in connection with labour were a practical in- 
fringement of their liberty, and if once permitted might 
lead to future interferences of an oppressive kind. 

42 LifCy Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

/The question of factory labour was therefore 
difficult to touch. The selfishness of the great body 
of factory owners, united with the gross ignorance of 
the factory workers, compelled, at the commencement, 
limited action. J^ A general regulation of the factory 
system by legislation was regarded as hopeless. The 
factory owners were almost furious in their opposition, 
whilst the workers were suspicious and indifferent. 
There was no public opinion to rely on for the 
purpose of enforcing the claims of the children, and 
therefore the first step was limited to an attack on 
the apprentice system, with a loose statement as to 
"others" {i,e., children who were not apprentices), 
which rounded the title of the Act, but did not 
interfere with the labour of those who were not 
apprentices. In 1802 this first Factory Act was 
passed by the help of the first Sir Robert Peel. It 
was a commencement which, whether it failed or 
succeeded, opened the way for earnest men de- 
termined to continue a work the vast importance of 
which has never been fully estimated. By this first 
effort the hours of work each day were limited to 
twelve, — not to commence before six in the morning, 
nor to be continued after nine at night. It provided 
that night work should not be practised after the 
June of 1804;, that instruction for all apprentices in 
reading, writing, and arithmetic should be provided^ 
that one suit of clothes for each apprentice should be 
supplied each year. It also provided that the factories 
should be whitewashed twice a year and properly 
ventilated ; and that there should be separation of 
sexes in the sleeping apartments. The provision for 
factory inspection is in itself a curiosity. If the need 

Birth of the New. 43 

of inspection be estimated by the provisions of the 
Act in regard to hours of work, cleanliness and 
ventilation, separation of the sexes in sleeping apart- 
ments, instruction and clothing, it will be seen with 
what trembling hands such industrial abominations 
were touched, when it is found that to enforce the 
observance of a law so important, it was provided 
that, at the Midsummer Session of each year, in 
districts in which factories were situated, the justices 
of the peace should appoint two factory inspectors, 
one a justice of the peace, the other a clergyman of 
the Established Church ; and that the mills and 
factories under the Act were to be registered 
annually with the clerk of the peace. The penalty 
following on any known violation of the Act was a 
fine not exceeding £^^ nor less than 40s. The great 
importance of this measure was, that it was the first 
step, and that it indicated a strongly felt want, and 
an active desire to check gross evils which had been 
proved to exist, and which were specified as offences 
against the law. 

As a mere expression of opinion entertained in the 
country, and franked by Parliament, it was invaluable; 
but as a correction of the abuses against which it was 
directed, it was not of much use. The inspection was, 
as nearly as possible, worthless ; whilst the fines were 
too trivial to deserve a moment's consideration. The 
apprenticeship system to which this law applied was, 
by the time the law came into operation — so far as it 
ever did become operative — rapidly declining. When 
water was the sole moving power, and the factories 
had to be erected where the labour of children could 
not be procured in sufficient quantity, it flourished. 

44 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

When Watt fitted his engine to the mechanism 
of the factories, these buildings were run up in the 
towns, where thickly-planted populations enabled their 
owners to hire child labour without apprenticing the 
children ; and thus a law which, perhaps, would never 
have been of much use, became unnecessary, as the 
state of things for which it was framed was rapidly 
ceasing to exist. The parents, who were in the new 
situation, the natural guardians of the children, settled 
what should or should not be practised in regard to 
the employment of child labour. 

The general statement made here covers a multi- 
tude of most painful details, every item of which has 
had overwhelming proof, — vicious example, lack of 
proper mental growth, coarseness and impurity, dis- 
ruption of family ties and home affections, dram 
drinking, over-crowded dwellings, cellar residences, 
diseases incident to and consequent upon early and 
excessive toil, infant mortality, effect on adults from 
breathing cotton dust, scrofula, indigestion, fever, con- 
sumption, premature old age, and the pauper's pro- 
vision in death. All these evils and more existed, in 
fact or in promise, and every thoughtful man entering 
on the active duties of life had to ask what his duties 
were to himself and his fellows. ( The few were 
gaining possession of the new implements of industry, 
and what ought to have been a general blessing was 
rapidly taking the form of a class monopoly. Society 
in the districts where our manufacturing industries 
were established, was divided into two distinctly 
marked classes, — those who had everything, and 
those who had nothing ; those who were every 
day augmenting their possessions in land, machinery, 

Birth of the Nezv. 45 

and capital ; and those who, having only their 
hands to depend on, must find employment or 
perish^ It is not necessary to say whether this state 
of things was an imperious necessity or a foolish 
blunder; whether it was soundly economic or in- 
herently vicious. [It existed, and had a tendency to 
grow ; and it was when Robert Owen had become 
convinced of this that he decided what his duties in 
regard to these new circumstances were, and deter- 
mined to perform them at whatever cost to himself 
He was not a man of aggressive temper, or of com- 
bative~habits j he was, in fact, an extreme example 
0r'''cHeerful patience and kindly tolerance. His 
sympathies with those who suffered were strong, and 
hi&^^nbiTas a reformer was prompted by the humane 
activity of his thoughts as a sympathetic man. If it 
could be said of anyone who, at any time, sought the 
improvement of society, that he acted from sober and 
thoughtful conviction, and from a careful examination 
of the facts connected with his proposals, it could be 
said of Robert Owen. , His schemes for the improve- 
ment of the condition of the people had to be carried 
on by the voluntary aid of others ; and success or 
failure should be judged not solely by the character 
of the undertaking, but also by the character of the 
help received. He saw distinctly that the great de- 
ficiencies of the time werejvant of education, lack of 
consideration for the working people, want of experi- 
ence in applying the new productive forces for the 
benefit of the community generally, and he deter- 
mined to do all in his power to remedy these evils. 

46 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 


Struaales ©nwart). 

WHEN Owen gave up the management of Mr Drink- 
water's mill he had proved his value so conspicuously 
. the trade that, upon his resignation becommg 
IT r 1 he was offered a partnership by Samuel Mars- 
r" T who was going very largely into the spinning 
.\,, Marsland offered him a partnership with 
busn^^-*^-^' profits, but Owen refused to accept it unless 
^^Tf fits were allowed. Another arrangement was 
h W^ completed with Messrs Moulson & Scarth, 
1^^*^ , . 1^ ^he profits were to be equally divided, and 
*i! nanagement of the mills left entirely in Owen's 
. . but before this arrangement was finished, he 
red into partnership with the old-established 
h use oi Borrowdale & Atkinson, the management 
f the business being left to him and a brother of one 
of the partners. 

As it was Robert Owen's duty to superintend the 
manufacture of the yarn, and the sale of it when 
made, he had to be much away with the customers 
of the firm. Among the places he had to visit was 
Glasgow, and the journey there, when he performed 
it for the first time, he undertook in company with a 
Preston manufacturer, who was on a tour of pleasure. 
To the traveller of the present day the journe}^ froifi 
Manchester to Glasgow is easy enough, taking little 
time, and causing no anxiety in regard to trouble or 
risk. In the early part of Owen's life it was different. 
"It was," he says,"before mail-coaches were established, 

Struggles Onward. 47 

and we were two nights and three days incessantly 
travelling in coaches. The roads were then in a 
deplorable condition, and we had to cross a well-known 
dangerous mountain about midnight called Freekstone 
Bar, which was then always passed in fear and trem- 
bling by passengers." 

This visit to Glasgow was in a short time followed 
by another, and at no distant period led to his mar- 
riage and settlement in Scotland. 

By this time the firm with which he was connected 
had become celebrated for the excellence of its goods. 
He was known to be the managing partner, and had a 
high reputation as the best fine spinner of the district, 
so it need scarcely be said he had entered upon a path 
which could not but lead to the accumulation of a 
large fortune. It is evident, however, that he could 
not give his attention solely to such an object. At 
that time Manchester was, as it still is, a great centre 
of manufacturing skill and industry, but it was also 
the centre of the cultivated and active thought of that 
part of the country. There were then residing in the 
town many men whose names have since become 
known in connection with science and literature, as 
well as with philanthropic effort in the interest of the 
children connected with the factory system. There 
were two societies, the Manchester Literary and Philo- 
sophical Society, and the Manchester College Society. 
Owen was elected a member of the first, and at its 
meetings he became personally intimate with such 
men as Dr Percival, the president; John Dalton, after- 
wards so celebrated as a philosophical thinker ; Dr 
Ferrier, author of " Illustrations of Sterne," " Theory 
of Apparitions," and other works. A young man like 

48 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

Owen, engaged in the trade of the district, whose 
education as a boy was h'mited to what was obtain- 
able at a village school, and ceased altogether 
before he had completed his tenth year, must have 
been a diligent student to fit himself for association 
with such men even in the humblest way. His own 
narrative, which is sufficiently unpretending, gives us 
to understand that he was regarded by his associates 
as fitted to share in their labours and deliberations. 
He mentions particularly a discussion he had with 
Coleridge, when the enthusiastic young poet visited 
Manchester with a view to the establishment of the 
Watchman; and though he was very much the inferior 
of Coleridge in fluency and grace of expression, the 
eloquence and learning, he says, being certainly on 
the side of his antagonist, he claims for himself a 
superiority in directness and closeness of argument. 

The leisure part of his last years in Manchester 
seems to have been spent chiefly among its professional, 
scientific, and literary men ; and he informs us that he 
regularly contributed papers which were read at the 
meetings of the Literary and Philosophical Society, 
some of which were printed in its transactions. 

It was with this society that the factory agitation 
began. The apprentice system which prevailed during 
the latter part of last century was, as has already been 
mentioned, characterised by many very grievous evils. 
The boarding, the lodging, and general treatment of 
the apprentices, had bred and propagated disease to a 
degree that had become alarming. In the January of 
1796 the question was taken up by the Manchester 
Board of Health, and was reported on by Dr Per- 
cival, the president of the Literary and Philosophical 

Struggles Omvard, 49 

Society. This report established a certain number of 
general facts by a crowd of individual statements, and 
led to an Apprentice Bill, which, in the hands of the 
first Sir Robert Peel, was passed through the House 
of Commons in 1802. There can be little doubt that 
the able and humane Dr Percival, whilst investigating 
the facts on which he reported in 1796, had the active 
assistance and practical advice of Robert Owen ; and 
that it was the share the latter took in this early 
agitation of the factory question, which prepared him 
for the more prominent part he afterwards played in 
securing better conditions of life and work for the 
factory population of the country. 

The attention of Robert Owen, at this period, was 
not confined to cotton spinning, nor to the meetings 
and discussions of the Literary and Philosophical 
Society. In 1794 he lodged at No. 8 Brazenose 
Street, Manchester, and one of his fellow-lodgers was 
the celebrated Robert Fulton, then unknown to fame 
and unblessed by fortune. Fulton informed Owen 
that he had invented a machine for more expedi- 
tiously digging and raising earth, to be used in 
cutting canals. Like most inventors of scanty means, 
he had had his resources almost entirely drained by 
the preliminary expenditure connected with patenting 
his invention and introducing it to the notice of the 
public ; and he told Owen that there was little or no 
chance left for him but to sell a portion of his interest 
in the invention, which he was very unwilling to do. 
Owen supplied him with money to go to Gloucester, 
with the view of obtaining a contract for digging with 
his machine some portion of a new canal which was 
about to be commenced there ; and soon after this a 







50 LifCy Times^ and Labours of Robert Oiven. 

partnership was entered into between them. In 
Owen's biographical sketch, page 65, a copy of the 
minutes of this partnership is given. They were 
drawn up between the time when Owen left Mr Drink- 
water's and that at which he entered into his partner- 
ship arrangement with the Chorlton Twist Company in 
Manchester ; but Fulton and Owen being both young 
men at the time, the money transactions between 
them were not heavy, and as Fulton had offers of 
larger financial support than Owen could render him, 
and as Owen found openings in the trade where he 
had acquired his experience and his reputation, each 
went his own way without any forfeiture of friendship. 
In what he has to say of Fulton, Owen always speaks 
of him with respect and kindness ; while Fulton's 
letters to Owen, several of which are published, show 
that these feelings were reciprocated. 

There is one paragraph in Owen's autobiography 
which, as it throws some light on the relative claims 
of Bell and Fulton as originators of steam navigation, 
may be worth reproducing : — " The money he received 
from me enabled him to go to Glasgow, where he saw 
Bell's imperfect, and as to profit, impotent, steamboat 
on the Clyde, which was not capable of going, without 
cargo, more than five miles an hour. Fulton saw 
immediately where the defect lay, and, knowing how 
to remedy it, proceeded to the United States, and did 
more to promote their rapid progress to great pros- 
perity than any one living, and I consider the little 
aid and assistance which I gave to enable him to 
bestow so great an advantage on his country and the 
world as money most fortunately expended." 

Visit to Scot/and. 5 1 


IDtstt to ScotlanD- 

Soon after Robert Owen entered on his new partner- 
ship the business began to prosper. Indeed, it may 
be said that from the first the concern took its place 
as one of the best firms in the trade. The new 
Chorlton Twist Company succeeded in procuring a 
great reputation, and as a consequence the highest 
prices and the most remunerative profits. In this 
way a grand future, so far as wealth could secure it, 
was rapidly opening before him. It was at this point, 
however, that a very important change took place in 
his circumstances. During his first visit to Glasgow, 
and when he was about twenty-seven years of age, he 
met accidentally in the street a Miss Spear, who was 
then on a visit to the family of David Dale, the pro- 
prietor of the New Lanark Cotton Mills, as well as of 
other large commercial establishments in different 
parts of Scotland, and a very remarkable man, being 
at the time an extensive manufacturer, a cotton 
spinner, merchant, banker, and preacher. Miss Spear 
was accompanied by Miss Dale, who, during the con- 
versation occasioned by this accidental meeting, 
inquired if Owen had seen the F'alls of Clyde and 
her father's mills there. Receiving an answer that he 
had not, but was anxious to do so, she offered him 
a letter of introduction to her uncle, who was the 

New Lanark, with its beautiful surroundings of hill, 
wood, and water, could not fail to interest even the 

52 Life^ TijficSy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

dullest and least romantic person. It greatly im- 
pressed Robert Owen, and he tells us that when he 
had inspected the establishment (which consisted of 
four mills for spinning cotton, and a primitive village, 
all grouped on the banks of the Clyde, in one of the 
pleasantcst parts of the valley), me turned to the 
friend in whose company he had journeyed to Glas- 
gow and said, " Of all places I have seen I should 
prefer this in which to try an experiment I have long 
contemplated, and have wished to have an opportunity 
to put in practice," jiot, as he adds, supposing for a 
moment that his wish would ever be gratified. When 
he returned to Glasgow he called on Miss Dale, to 
thank her for the pleasure she had afforded him, and 
found her just leaving her father's house for a walk on 
the Green, on the edge of which her home stood. He 
accompanied her and Miss Spear, and thus he and 
Miss Dale commenced an acquaintance which shortly 
after resulted in marriage. 

During this visit to the west of Scotland he dis- 
covered that the printing of his name on the bundles 
of twist had made him known to the muslin manu- 
facturers, and through this he was able to considerably 
extend the business connection of his firm. 

After his return from Scotland he met Miss Spear 
at her brother's house in Manchester, and on his next 
visit to Glasgow he took charge of a letten from 
her to Miss Dale. In consequence of Mr Dale's 
many engagements, Owen had not up to that time 
met him ; but a few more visits to his house led to a 
proposal of marriage, which was not unfavourably 
received by Miss Dale, though with an assurance 
that she would take no step without the full know- 

Vtstt to Scotland. 53 

ledge and consent of her father. How an entire 
stranger was to obtain this was an embarrassing and 
difficult question. Mr Dale was a man of the highest 
character and standing, and his daughter, therefore, 
would naturally be regarded as one of the most 
desirable matches among the mercantile community 
of that part of the country. Owen was a stranger, 
and, though entered on a career which led almost 
certainly to fortune, was not rich. Questions as 
to his position would naturally be asked, and he 
felt his answers to these would scarcely be regarded 
as satisfactory. 

He had heard that the sale of New Lanark had 
been talked about. Mr Dale was well advanced in 
years, and probably began to feel over-taxed by work. 
As the best excuse for seeking an interview, he decided 
to call at his place of business and ask if the report 
were correct ; and if so, what were the conditions on 
which the property could be purchased. (^ Owen was 
at this time twenty-seven years of age, but looked 
much younger. When he was shown into the 
counting-house, and had made known his business, 
Mr Dale replied doubtingly, and told him bluntly that 
he thought him too young for such an undertaking. 
Owen replied that he was in partnership with persons 
older than himself, mentioning their names, and 
assuring Mr Dale that if an agreement could be come 
to as to price, there was capital enough to work the 
concern. On receiving this information Mr Dale 
became more interested, and asked him if he had 
seen the mills. Owen informed him that he had, but 
that he had in no way examined details. " Well," 
said the old man, " I would recommend you to go and 

54 Lif^y Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

examine, and return to Manchester, and make your 
report to your partners. If they should have any 
desire to become the owners, I shall be prepared to 
enter into negotiation with them for the whole of the 
property." Owen was a sound man of business, his 
undertakings in trade throughout his life were signal 
successes. In these, as a rule, he held the managing 
power in his own hands, however many partners he 
might have ; and whatever differences he may have 
had with his partners during the time he conducted 
the New Lanark establishment, it may be noted that 
no misunderstanding arose on mere business grounds. 
The establishment was always profitably conducted 
as a trading concern, and always paid well. That he 
differed with one set of partners and separated from 
them is true; but this difference arose simply because 
the other members of the firm thought he was ex- 
pending too much of the profits in the interest and 
for the advantage of the workers, especially in regard 
to the schools he erected for the children of the 


Ipurcbase of tbe IRew Xanarft /iBills* 

Robert Owen determined to fight his battle with 
Miss Dale's father on the most tenable ground he 
could find. He felt that a display of business ability 
was most calculated to forward his plans, and he 
determined to set himself fairly to work. 

Having received from Mr Dale the authority to 

Purchase of the Nezv Lanark Mills. 5 5 

examine the Lanark establishment thoroughly, he at 
once left Glasgow for New Lanark. Having made a 
careful examination of the whole concern, so as to 
understand its actual condition as well as its capacity 
for development, he proceeded to Manchester, and 
placed a report on the matter before the members of 
both the firms with which he was connected. Know- 
ing his business sagacity they at once decided to open 
negotiations, and, as a preparatory step, deputed a 
member of each of the firms to return with him to 
Scotland for this purpose. In the meantime Miss 
Dale had told her father of Robert Owen's proposal. 
Such an alliance, however, was far from acceptable to 
him, and he at once expressed himself opposed to it, 
at the same time stating his belief that nothing more 
would be heard of Owen either as a wooer or a pur- 
chaser. He regarded the proposal to buy the mills 
as a pretence. In this state of things, Owen and his 
two partners, Mr John Barton and Mr John Atkinson, 
arrived in Glasgow. They immediately waited on, 
and made all necessary explanations to, Mr Dale, who 
seemed surprised and pleased by their presence, and 
by the frank manner in which the interview was con- 
ducted. The two houses of Borrowdale & Atkinson, 
of London, and Messrs Barton's, in Manchester, stood 
high in the commercial world ; and as Mr Dale was 
one of the directors of the Bank of Scotland, to which 
they referred him, he asked them to call on the 
following day, saying that in the meantime he would 
make such inquiries as he thought necessary. His 
inquiries satisfied him, and when the three partners 
again called upon him, he said he was willing 
to treat with them for the land, village, and mills 

56 Life^ Times y and Labours of Robert Ozven, 

at New Lanark, with everything as it then stood. 
When questioned as to the price, however, he was 
at a loss how to value the property, as his brother 
and another person managed it for him. He him- 
self was very seldom there, and only for short 
periods, as his chief business lay in Glasgow. 
* But ," said he, " Mr Owen knows better than I do 
the current value of such property, and I wish he 
would name what he considers a fair price as between 
honest buyers and sellers.'* After some consideration, 
and after recovering somewhat from the surprise 
which this proposal caused him, Owen said, " My 
estimate, after having' made a general inspection of 
the establishment, is that ;£'6o,ooo, payable at the 
rate of ;£^3,ooo a year for twenty years, would be 
an equitable bargain on both sides.'* Mr Dale was 
known to be a man of good business capacity, and 
of plain straightforward speech. No doubt, as he 
had entertained the idea of selling the place, he knew 
about the sum it ought to bring, so, to the surprise of 
all, he merely said, " If you think so, I will accept the 
proposal, if your friends also approve of it." The 
purchasers were prepared to reply at once, and on 
the spot the bargain was made by which New Lanark 
passed out of the hands of David Dale into those of 
the New Lanark Twist Company. Here again Owen's 
attachment became mixed up with business. The new 
proprietors had agreed to enter on immediate posses- 
sion, but there was a slight, though not to Robert 
Owen, an unpleasant impediment. In the middle 
of the village there were two gardens, and in each 
of these there stood a house, one occupied by the 
manager of the mills, and one used by Mr Dale as a 

Purchase of the Nezv Lanark Mills, 57 

summer residence for his daughters, who at the time 
of the purchase were there. Mr Dale proposed to 
remove them at once, but this was protested against, 
and they therefore remained undisturbed for about 
six weeks longer, when Mr Dale sent for them to 
return, " learning, I suppose," says Robert Owen, 
writing some fifty years afterwards, " that Miss Dale 
and I had frequent opportunities of seeing each 
other ; " and he alludes to the fact that " with her 
sisters we often enjoyed walks among the beautiful 
scenery on the banks of the Clyde, passing our time 
very much to our satisfaction." 

Ultimately all difficulties vanished, and this ** ro- 
mance of trade " ended in a marriage, so prosaic and 
simple that it is worth recording in Owen's own 
words. " Our marriage took place in Mr Dale's 
house in Charlotte Street, near to Glasgow Green, 
where our early courtship commenced. The cere- 
mony, if ceremony it could be called, was according 
to the marriage rites of Scotland, and surprised 
me not a little. We were married by the Rev. 
Mr Balfour, an old friend of Mr Dale, although 
he was of the regular Scotch Church, and Mr Dale 
was at the head of a dissenting or independent sect. 
When we were all met on the morning of our marriage, 
waiting for the ceremony to commence, Mr Dale being 
there to give his daughter to me, and the younger 
sisters of Miss Dale acting as bridesmaids, Mr 
Balfour requested Miss Dale and me to stand up, 
and asked us if we were willing to take each other 
for husband and wife. Each simply nodding assent, 
he said, without one word more, *Then you are 
married, and you may sit down,' and the ceremony 

58 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

was over." Mr Balfour afterwards explained to the 
bridegroom that the ceremony was usually longer, 
the rule being to address the young people on their 
duties in the marriage state, but that he could not 
think of doing so to one of Mr Dale's children, as 
their father was well known to be a man whose 
exhortations and example left nothing to be done 
in that respect. 

Immediately after their marriage, Owen and his wife 
set off for Manchester, it having been decided that in 
the meantime the management of the mills should 
remain in the hands in which it had hitherto been, 
until other steps could be taken. It was very soon 
decided, however, that the necessary changes should 
take place with as little loss of time as possible, and 
arrangements having been made to admit of 
Owen remaining altogether in Scotland as managing 
partner, he returned to that country within three 
months, and on the ist of January 1800 commenced 
operations as a cotton manufacturer at New Lanark, 
rin recording this he uses the word "government" 
instead of management, his intention being, as he 
states, not to be a mere manager of cotton mills, as 
such mills were at that time generally managed, but 
to introduce principles which he had successfully tried 
with the workpeople in Mr Drinkwater's factory, and 
to change the condition of the people, whom he found 
surrounded by circumstances which had an injurious 
influence on the entire population of New Lanarl3. 

On commencing his task he had to encounter many 
obstacles. All those in any position of management 
had acquired their habits and modes of action under 
a system of which he entirely disapproved. Much 

Purchase of the Neiv Lanark Mills. 59 

had to be undone, before anything tending in the 
direction he wished to go could be accomplished. 
He therefore first set to work with the purpose of 
ascertaining and making record of everything that 
appeared to him to require alteration, and, as he 
pursued his inquiries, he came gradually and de- 
liberately to the conclusion that it was absolute re- 
construction, not partial alteration, that was necessary. 
The character of the people employed in the mills 
was anything but satisfactory. Drunkenness and 
consequent neglect of work were but too common ; 
while theft was practised to such an extent, that Mr 
Dale had suffered seriously through this evil habit. It 
is almost a necessity in great establishments situated 
in out-of-the-way places, that the persons' employed 
should, to a considerable extent, be made up of waifs 
and strays, who, settling permanently nowhere, are to 
be found everywhere, without being of much use any- 
where. There was a prejudice at the time against 
employment in cotton mills, and therefore sober, 
honest, steady people were not willing to break up 
their homes wherever they might live and take up 
their residence in places where the character of the 
population was not likely to be to their taste, and 
where, if anything occurred to interfere with the 
prosperity of the establishment they worked in, they 
must again remove before they could hope for new 

It is evident, from the trouble taken by Robert 
Owen to explain the difficulties that beset him at the 
commencement of this undertaking, that he regarded 
it as a critical point in his life. He seems to have 
felt that he had on his hands a great commercial and 

6o Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

social experiment, entered on chiefly by his advice, 
carried on under his management, and depending on 
him for its success. His first difficulty lay with the 
people, and the ordinary way of getting over it would 
have been to discharge them in large numbers, at 
whatever cost, and get others in place of those dis- 
missed. This is the way in which, in other hands, 
it is most likely the improvement would have been 
commenced. Owen, however, had other plans in his 
mind, the soundness of which he was anxious to prove. 
He believed that by judiciously altering the con- 
ditions in which the people worked, so as to make 
those conditions better, a corresponding change would 
be gradually effected in the character and disposition 
of the people themselves ; and that, in this way, a more 
permanent improvement, beneficial to all, would be 
effected, than by the ordinary method of coercion or 
discharge. Working men as a rule so seldom receive 
this kind of consideration, that when good employers 
in any degree adopt it, they seldom believe it is 
meant for their good, and hence they too frequently 
continue in the attitude of suspicion and distrust 
caused by the ordinary treatment they are subjected to. 
" When," says Owen, " I mentioned to my friends and 
nearest connections that my intention was to com- 
mence a new system of management, on principles of 
justice and kindness, and gradually to abolish punish- 
ment in governing the population, they one and all 
smiled at my simplicity in imagining I could succeed 
in such a visionary scheme, and strongly urged 
me not to attempt so hopeless a task. My mind, » 
however, was prepared for it, and also to encounter 
whatever difficulties might arise." The population 

Purchase of the New Lanark Mills, 6i 

consisted of about thirteen hundred people in families 
settled in the village, and between four and five 
hundred pauper children procured from the surround- 
ing parishes, whose ages appeared to be from five to 
ten years, but were said to be from seven to twelve. 
These children were well lodged, fed, and clothed by 
Mr Dale's directions, and there was an attempt made 
to teach them to read and write after the labour of 
the day was over ; but, as Owen remarks, endeavours 
to teach the children when they were thoroughly 
exhausted, however well meant, tormented them 
without doing any good. In relation to this part of 
the population, he made up his mind at once that no 
more pauper children should be received, and also 
determined that the village streets should be im- 
proved, and new and better houses built to receive 
additional families to fill the places of the pauper 
children who otherwise would have to be brought 
into the village. He decided, also, that the interior 
of the mills should be re-arranged, and the old 
machinery replaced by new, gradually and as oppor- 
tunity occurred. Whatever of evil the factory system 
was producing at this time accompanied it wherever 
established. Cotton spinning and weaving were 
highly profitable, and those who carried on the busi- 
ness amassed large fortunes rapidly ; but, as already 
pointed out, this was done without any kind of con- 
sideration for the people. Whether they were healthy 
or ailing, was simply a matter of calculation as to the 
efficacy of their work, and the difference in cost of 
providing for them in sickness compared with their 
cost in a state of comparative health. In the old 
system of labour, the associations of the workshop, as 

62 Life^ Titrtes^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

already stated, bred friendships that softened and 
humanised the struggles of life ; while in the present 
day, our discussions and arrangements as to the rights 
of the workers and the duties of employers, have led 
to the establishment of practices legally enforced and 
voluntarily adopted, which provide, to a considerable 
extent, for the well-being of our factory workers ; but 
at the time when Robert Owen entered on the govern- 
ment of New Lanark, there was no protection even of 
the slightest kind. Each individual man made his 
calculations as to his sense of duty to his fellow- 
creatures and his desire to enrich himself; and from 
what we have seen, the desire to grow rich, leaving 
the weak, the ignorant, and the poor to take care of 
themselves, was the predominant desire among the 
manufacturers of the country. 

To go back from where we stand at present to 
the last year of the eighteenth century, when Owen 
entered on his duties as a factory owner and manager 
at New Lanark, is to pass into a state of things almost 
incredible in connection with factory labour ; but, 
bad as it was, the employers had come to regard it as 
the natural condition of things, brought about, not 
because they did not do their duty, but because the 
people were too ignorant and depraved to avail them- 
selves of the many advantages, in regard to self- 
improvement and progress, belonging to the new 
system. There was some degree of truth in this, 
not as an excuse for neglected duty on the part of 
the employers, but rather as a statement of the 
depravity that had extended and deepened, as a con- 
sequence of the criminal indifference of a large majority 
of the factory owners. The people employed in the 

His Policy at New Lanark. 63 

cotton mills, especially those who had worked in them 
from boyhood and girlhood, had gradually lost all 
proper sense of self-respect, and acquired degrading 
habits of self-indulgence, such as are usually found 
among the ignorant and oppressed. 


ftis ipolics at Hew Xanatft. 

Robert Owen's partners were commercial men, who 
of course looked for interest on their investment, and 
also for a fair profit on the undertaking, and in every 
change he made this had to be kept in view. On 
the other hand, the workers were suspicious of new 
masters, who were strangers from England, and 
who as such were watched in all they did with 
distrust, and opposed when any change gave a colour- 
able excuse for opposition. 

As a stranger Owen did not understand the best 
way of addressing himself to a population who spoke 
a mixture of Lowland Scotch and Erse, a considerable 
proportion of them being from the Western High- 
lands. In fact, the general relationship was precisely 
the same as in nearly all manufacturing establish- 
ments in the kingdom, The workpeople thought 
they had been passed into the hands of a new body 
of proprietors who would try to feed themselves fat 
upon them, and then periiaps hand them over in turn 
to another set of new men who would continue the same 
process, leaving them poor, ignorant, and miserable, 

64 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Ozven. 

as they had found them. It was not to be expected that 
they could see or comprehend the schemes for tlieir 
welfare that had gradually been forming in the mind 
of the young managing partner, nor could he, by any 
process he was master of, convince them that he was 
about to make the improvement of their condition 
the basis of his work. As a first step towards gain- 
ing their good-will, he sought out the individuals 
who had most of their respect and confidence. 
To these he explained himself fully, in such a 
manner as to be clearly understood. He told them 
they were not to judge hurriedly, and by each 
individual act, but by the general policy he pursued ; 
and he asked them to make known to the others, 
in their intercourse with them, that his intention 
was to permanently improve their condition, and 
that it would be to their interest to co-operate with 
him in carrying out the objects he had in view. 

One of his first tasks was to teach them the value 
of cleanly habits in regard to their persons and houses, 
and all that was possible as example and encourage- 
ment was done in this direction. He found also that 
the small retail shopkeepers , , ^[ the village bought 
and sold their goods on cr^ ,. .^irid that therefore 
the worst things were purchav^^u at the highest prices. 
The working people of the manufacturing districts 
1;. ye grown rich in co-operative experience since 
tnat time, and therefore need not be told that a 
general system of credit involves heavy risks ; that 
the goods paid for have to carry the cost of those 
not paid for, and as much more as a credit system 
among the poor may enable an unscrupulous dealer 
to squeeze out of those who depend on his good-will 

His Policy at New Lanark. 65 

for the continuance of their daily food. In New^ '^ 
Lanark the quality of the goods supplied to ^ the ^ 
people was very inferior, and the prices very high. \; 
" I arranged/' says Owen, " superior stores and shops 
from which to supply every article of ordinary daily 
consumption." He bought everything with ready 
money in the first markets ; and contracted for fuel, 
milk, and other articles produced in the neighbour- 
hood, so as to secure all the advantages of a large 
ready-money purchase. These articles were brought 
to the doors of the people, and supplied to them 
at cost price, at a saving of 25 per cent, in the 
expenditure of their wages. By this arrangement 
alone an improvement in health and comfort very 
soon became perceptible among them. 

Working men are ready enough to credit the well- 
intentioned action of employers when it is not accom- 
panied by conditions that counterbalance the proposed 
good, and so it was in New Lanark. The suspicion 
and distrust of the people gradually began to give 
way. Their new employer and manager had been 
six years among them; and in such a relationship, 
shut in as it were f • ^ ' the rest of the world, in the 
seclusion of the L- ^ i valley, the feelings of people 
towards each ot) give,«^ '" become known. Robert 
Oweiv'^^scov^.'iefly ov- he was rapidly growing in^o 
favouS^i^ly CO*" •v'-^rkers at the mills. The e\ ivt 
by which nc made a complete conquest of their good- 
will occurred about this time, namely in the year 1806. 
In this year the United States, in consequence of 
diplomatic differences, placed an embargo on the 
export of cotton to Great Britain. As a natural con- 
sequence, the prices of raw cotton advanced so as to 

66 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Oiven. 

greatly cripple the manufacturers in the working of 
their mills. Whenever cost of production through 
any cause runs unnaturally high, the manufacturer 
has to calculate very narrowly, whether it is better 
to make for a future market at the risk of sudden 
reductions of price, or to partially or wholly stop his 
mill. In this case, as in all other similar cases, 
some acted on one policy and some on another. The 
dilemma is a very serious one, particularly where 
work is carried on in out-of-the-way places. To con- 
tinue working, means heavy purchases of raw material, 
as well as payment of wages. To stop, occasions the 
disorganisation of the establishment by the dispersion 
of the people, who are compelled to go elsewhere in 
search of employment : and the misery communities 
of men suffer is great when such a policy has to be 
pursued. The thought of the privations of the people 
weighed heavily on Robert Owen's mind, and though 
he determined on the stopping of the works as the safest 
course to be pursued for himself and his partners, he 
decided to pay full wages to the people, for simply 
attending to the machinery and keeping it in good 
working condition. He did this for nearly four 
months, and during that tinr :»*aid seven thousand 
pounds to the workers withc;^ ^^ ne penny being de- 
ducted from their full wages."?^^"*^" proceeding, he 
Si^ys, won for him the "confident ?^P^^^^^^^^arts of 
the whole of the population." From " that time 
forward they went confidingly with him in whatever 
he proposed, so that he had no obstruction in doing 
whatever his partners permitted him to undertake. 

Up to this point we simply see him fighting man- 
fully with the difficulties by which he was immediately 

Mr Dale's Confidence in Him, 67 

surrounded ; reforming such abuses as were operat- 
ing to the injury of the people ; giving to them 
more comfort, more independence, more manliness, 
more hope ; above all, gaining among them that 
confidence and co-operation which might enable him 
to work out the changes on which he relied for 
proving the practicability of reforms that might be 
applied to the rapidly growing cotton industry in all 
its branches throughout the kingdom. Writing as an 
old man, he says : — " When urging the improvement 
of society, the question has often been asked. How 
will you begin ? I have replied. In the same manner 
in which I commenced the change of New Lanark." 
He studied the causes that were producing the 
evils he sought to remedy, and gradually superseded 
these by methods less injurious, such as were cal- 
culated to produce beneficial instead of mischievous 


/IDt 2)ale*6 Confl&ence in Dim. 

In the sketch he gives of his own life, Robert Owen 
passes very briefly over the private concerns of those 
immediately connected with him. His relations to 
his father-in-law became of the closest and most 
affectionate kind. At first he and his wife spent the 
summer in the house in the centre of the village 
garden already spoken of, while the winter was passed 
at Mr Dale's residence, in Charlotte Street, Glasgow, 
Mr Dale being very much with them. We are told 

68 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

that from the time when Owen married his daughter, 
up to the time of Mr Dale's death, an unpleasant word 
never passed between them ; and it is to the credit of 
both, that though David Dale was a leading man at the 
head of about forty dissenting churches in Scotland, 
and though Owen believed that the fundamental 
doctrine of all of them — namely, the voluntary nature 
of belief, and, therefore, responsibility for belief — was 
erroneous, they argued their differences out with 
a good temper founded on a strong faith in each 
other's sincerity, and escaped the anger and unchari- 
tableness to which people discussing such subjects 
are often liable. Frequently, at the end of one 
of their friendly disputes, the old man would say to 
Owen, with a kindliness of expression which was 
peculiar to him, "Thou needest be very right, for 
thou art very positive." And this was certainly 
true, as no man ever stood more firmly on the 
side of anything which he believed to be of import- 
ance to the world ; but it should be added, that no 
man ever did so in a gentler and more kindly spirit. 
It is clear, from what Robert Owen records of him, 
that David Dale was, in every sense of the term, a 
good man. Apart from their disputes on religion, 
in conversation on general subjects, in the attention 
they gave to practical measures of improvement for 
the poor, and for the working people, they rarely 
differed. " Such," says Owen, " were the feelings 
created in me by his natural simplicity, his almost 
unbounded liberality and benevolence, and his warm- 
hearted kindness, that my affection for him daily 
increased as long as he lived." David Dale died in 
the arms of his son-in-law, to whose care he confided 

Mr Dale's Coftfidence in Him. 69 

his unmarried daughters ; and in telling the story of 
his death, Owen tenderly assures us that it was 
"felt as a great public loss, for he was universally 
respected, and loved by all who knew him. There 
was a peculiarly attractive and winning benevolence 
in his manner that won the hearts of all who ap- 
proached him, but especially of those who were 
admitted to his confidence. As one who had his 
full confidence in all his affairs for the last six 
years of his life, to whom he was most affectionately 
kind, I felt his loss, as a parent and confidential 
friend, to whom I was attached in a manner only 
known to and felt by myself, as though I had been 
deprived of a large part of my own existence. 
The morning after his decease the world appeared 
a blank to me, and his death was a heavy loss 
and was severely felt by every member of his 

Previous to his death, Mr Dale, with the help of 
Robert Owen, very muqh contracted his manu- 
facturing operations. Among other cotton mills, he 
was a partner in one in Sutherlandshire, and this 
Owen visited in company with Mr George Mcintosh, 
partner of Mr Dale, and father of the inventor 
of the macintosh waterproof. This journey, like his 
first trip into Scotland, is curious, by the facts he 
notes in reference to travelling in Scotland at that 
time. There were no steamboats, no mail-coaches, 
not even common stage-coaches. The roads were in 
a wretched state, having been originally made by 
General Wade for military purposes. On foot or on 
horseback was the ordinary way of travelling, but 
Owen and his companion decided to post, if possible ; 

70 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

and in order to do this they had to hire horses and 
a carriage to go the whole distance and back again 
with them. They arranged to pay thirty shillings a 
day until their return, and not to travel more than 
twenty miles a day, which he says was considered 
hard work. They were also to pay all the tolls, and 
the driver, but he is not quite clear whether they 
had to feed the horses or not. He remembers, how- 
ever, that they had to walk up all the hills, and 
down many of them ; and occasionally, when the 
hill was long and steep, they had to assist the 
horses by pushing behind. 

To Robert Owen this was a journey of great 
interest. There were few travellers in Scotland at 
that time, and he had never been in the Highlands 
before. His companion, who had been over the 
ground many times, entertained him with stories of 
adventures, some of which had happened in the 
mountain solitudes of Sutherland through which 
they travelled. When passing one of the glens, Mr 
M'Intosh told Owen that he had once been surprised 
there by an eagle which suddenly swooped close beside 
him. On following the flight of the bird, he saw 
there was a pair of them, and in another moment he 
was satisfied they meant to attack him. As he rode 
forward, one of them darted directly at his eyes. 
Being armed with a stout riding-whip, he beat off his 
assailant, but they both attacked him several times 
singly, one a minute or so after the other. Had 
they attacked him together, their swiftness and 
power were such that he doubted if he would have 
been able to resist their united force. 

At the time of this tour Owen's name was known 

Mr Dales Confidence in Him, y i 

generally as an active and intelligent manufacturer, 
and successor to David Dale, while his companion 
was regarded with great respect in the north of Scot- 
land for his patriotic attempts to introduce the manu- 
facture of cotton into that part of the kingdom. In 
Inverness they were entertained at a public dinner by 
the corporation, the provost presiding, and had con- 
ferred on them the freedom of that ancient royal 
burgh, while on their return they visited many of the 
respectable Highland families. 

Owen kept a journal of this expedition, but during 
his many changes and vicissitudes he lost it. This 
was to him a matter of great regret, as he was much 
interested and gratified by the hospitality he received, 
and the many kindly qualities he found in the people 
he met with ; but more especially as it was during 
these visits, and the interchange of ideas that resulted 
from them, that he first began seriously to advocate his 
convictions on the subject of the formation of opinions 
and character. This was in 1 802, and from this period 
he never ceased to urge, by argument and practical 
demonstration, the importance of education as a 
national necessity, and the duty of the nation to 
acknowledge this great truth, and to exert its utmost 
power in training the masses of the people in accord- 
ance with it. 

72 LifCy Times ^ and Labours of Robert Otvett. 


xrbe jfiQbt anb its 2)ifHculties, 

However Robert Owen's mind might have been 
occupied with his larger and more important plans 
for the future, he never lost sight of the daily detail 
by which he traced the progress he was making in 
improving the manners and character of the people 
under his care, or ceased from devising such additional 
changes as might be useful in helping him to advance 
the end he had in view. He found that through 
habits contracted during the defective management 
of the men acting for Mr Dale, small pilferings had 
grown to be very common. To prevent or detect 
these he contrived plans which in time were effectual. 
He devised a series of checks in every department of 
the business, by means of which a wrong thing done 
at any one point, was almost immediately detected at 
some other point ; and to compensate for any defect 
there might be in this system of checks, he had 
presented to him every morning, returns of the 
previous day's proceedings, and obtained frequent 
balances from every department ; thus impressing on 
the minds of all, the fact that his eye was constantly 
on them, and that whatever went wrong would be 
discovered sooner or later. 

One of these checks, which had reference to the 
conduct of the workers, he states to have been 
effectual. He had placed behind each a four-sided 
piece of wood, about two inches long and one broad, 
each side painted a different colour, — black, blue, 

The Fight and its Difficulties. 73 

yellow, and white, — tapering at^ the top, and fitted so 
as to hang on a wire, with any one side to the front, 
and the side to the front indicated what the conduct 
of the worker had been on the previous day. Black 
meant bad, blue middling, yellow good, and white 
excellent. Books of character were provided for each 
department, and these colours were entered daily to the 
credit or discredit of each individual worker, being 
numbered i, 2, 3, 4 ; and these numbers were entered, 
and an average made every two months, or six times a 
year, so that Owen could tell at a glance how all the 
workers had conducted themselves during the whole of 
the year. There was no secret in this, it was done 
openly, and every one knew what it meant. The 
people knew that their employer would examine the 
record, and that he would value each accordingly. 
If any one thought injustice had been done, appeal 
was open. When this plan was commenced, there 
were many black and many blue marks, but gradually 
these gave way to yellow and white. In this way he 
saw regularly the change which was taking place for 
the better, and in the end found that he had corrected 
nearly all the errors and faults that existed so abun- 
dantly when he entered on the management of the 

For eight years he went on quietly doing everything 
in his power to produce individual and local changes 
for the better, previous to venturing on the more 
important and more general experiments on which 
he meant to base his appeal to the public and the 
legislature for such general changes in the factory 
system as might correct its worst evils. This was to 
be made when he had done what was practicable to 

74 ^'i/^j Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

overcome the many evils he found existing in the 
factories and the village in connection with the 
employment and the homes of the people under his 
control, and to introduce the plans he had been 
meditating in their interest. With this view he 
first turned his attention to the very young, — to the 
infants, in fact. The accommodation in the houses of 
the workers was far from being favourable to the 
training of the young. In every respect it was 
too limited to allow mothers to go through their 
household occupations without feeling inconveniently 
the pressure of the children, without speaking to 
them frequently in a manner and tone calculated 
to be injurious in the early formation of their charac- 
ters. " In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred," he 
remarks, " parents are altogether ignorant of the right 
method of treating children." That this was true of the 
masses of the working people in the manufacturing 
districts is certain. He saw how many evils in after- 
life this state of things led to, but he also saw the 
many obstacles that would be opposed to any attempt 
he might make to alter it. To erect and furnish such 
buildings as he thought necessary for the proper 
education of the young, required an expenditure, in 
the first instance, of about ;£'s,ooo ; and, when this 
was done, a considerable annual outlay would be 
needed to keep up such a system and carry it 
on effectually. He was satisfied in his own mind that 
in time this outlay and expenditure would bring a 
satisfactory and an ample return, in the improved 
character of the children, as well as in the improved 
condition of their parents ; but he had to remember 
that his partners went into the business for profit as 

The Fight and its Difficulties, 7 5 

cotton spinners. They were commercial men, and it 
was to the annual balance-sheet they looked for satis- 
faction, and not to the character of the population 
employed in the mills. Besides this, there were the 
prejudices of the parents, who possibly would not like 
to part with their children during the whole day, at so 
early an age as he felt it would be desirable to take 
them ; but perhaps the most serious difficulty was to 
be found in the fact that he was opposed, as he says, 
in all his views, by the parish minister. This gentle- 
man regarded the managing partner at the New 
Lanark mills as a dangerous innovator, and, conscien- 
tiously enough no doubt, felt it his duty to watch Owen's 
proceedings narrowly, and to oppose him by every 
means in his power, when he suspected him of, even in 
the most remote way, trenching on his right, as minister 
of the parish, to the spiritual and moral supervision of 
the people. With his ideas on education and the 
formation of character, it was impossible that Robert 
Owen could allow any religious minister to interfere 
with the working of his plans; but it was perhaps just 
as unreasonable to expect that any minister, zealous 
for the welfare of his flock, should allow an experiment 
in which he was denied active interference to go 
on without opposition. The first difficulty of Owen, 
however, lay with his partners. He had carefully 
matured his plans, and worked out his estimates with 
all necessary precision. The steps he had already 
taken had greatly improved the population, and after 
watching the results of his labours, in profit to the 
establishment, for nearly nine years, he outlined the 
further changes he proposed to make, and pointed 
out the advantages likely to result from them ; but his 

y6 LifCy TimeSy and Labours of Robert Oiven. 

proposals went so far beyond the view of his partners 
as to alarm them seriously. The leading members of 
the firm went from London and Manchester to visit 
New Lanark, and stayed there several days, so as 
to give it a thorough inspection. They were much 
pleased with what they saw, and when they left 
promised they would explain Owen's views fully to 
the other partners. 

When the London and Manchester partners met, 
they decided to present him with a large silver salver 
as a slight token of their satisfaction, and this he 
regarded as a good augury. Some of them, however, 
were timid ; and after he had waited a few months 
he had another visit. To this second deputation he 
explained his intended measures step by step, and 
stated the beneficial effects he expected them to 
produce. They hesitated, demurred, objected ; but 
he told them firmly that he could only continue to 
manage the establishment in the way he considered 
best. Up to this point his plans had been highly 
successful, and if they declined to go forward with 
him, he was prepared to make suggestion of a price 
for the establishment, w^hich he would give or accept. 
They asked him to name the amount he was pre- 
pared to offer, and he said he was willing to take 
or give ;£^84,ooo. They at once took the matter into 
consideration, and ended by accepting the offer to go 
out. The price was an advance on the original pur- 
chase of ;£^6o,ooo, — a satisfactory increase of value in 
nine years, though no doubt some portion of this 
would be for improvements and new machinery. 

At this point it may be said Owen's warfare for 
principles began. Hitherto he had been gradually. 


The Fight and its Difficulties. yy 

within the limits of his daily experience, testing 
his ideas in regard to human character. He had 
satisfied himself that the first and most important 
duty men could impose on themselves, was that of 
properly training and providing for the young ; and 
that this should be proved, in connection with the 
great industry he was engaged in, was the settled 
determination of his mind. He saw growing up 
around him a comparatively new business, day by 
day increasing in bulk, and drawing to it the labour- 
ing population of the country ; and he saw in 
connection with this, as a result of the large profits it 
yielded, a system of intensified individual selfishness, 
which operated generally with little or no regard for 
the public good. The natural fruits of such a system, 
worked in such a spirit, were most painfully apparent 
on all sides. The health, the morals, the happiness 
of the workers were rapidly giving way, with nothing 
that could be regarded as a compensating advantage 
but the wealth that was as rapidly flowing into the hands 
of the manufacturing classes. Individual interest was 
fast establishing itself, as the all-sufficient and sole 
regulating force in everything connected with busi- 
ness It is no doubt natural and powerful, and ought 
to have its influence acknowledged and allowed for, 
but not to the exclusion of combined action for 
general purposes of good, unattainable, under certain 
circumstances, by individual' men. The right of com- 
bination belongs to men in classes and communities, 
and to the working men as to all other men ; and 
much excellent work has been accomplished by trades 
uhions and other combinations since the power to 
combine became legal. When Robert Owen was 


78 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

carrying on his operations at Lanark this power 
did not exist, and therefore the working men of the 
country, in all its industries, were at the mercy of their 
employers. Individually they were too weak to do 
anything, and the combination laws prevented them 
from acting collectively, either for the purpose of 
attack or defence. What they have done, since the 
repeal of those most unjust laws, by trades unionism 
and co-operation, might have been commenced many 
years sooner, and much greater results have been 

Owen's proposals, at the time they were made, 
were admirably suited to the existing condition 
of things. At that time no nation was competing 
with Great Britain in the cotton trade. The com- 
petition was only among native manufacturers, and 
prices in their downward tendency were only checked 
by the average profit expected, when added to the 
cost of production. The performance of the duties 
insisted on by Robert Owen, would have greatly added 
to the wellbeing of the workers, but it is not at all 
certain that they would have perceptibly added to 
the cost of production. His own practical experience 
convinced him, that the improvement in the people as 
workers, as well as men and women, would have more 
than covered the cost ; and from his success as a 
manufacturer, while making his experiments, it is 
reasonable to believe he was right. There were 
further advantages, the importance of which need not 
be discussed now; but it requires no great stretch 
of the imagination to perceive that a foundation of 
goodwill, of friendliness and co-operation, in regard 
to the great industries of the country, between 

New Partnerships. 79 

employers and employed, would have produced far 
higher results for all classes than any we can see 
at the present moment. 


Hew pattnetsbips. 

By this time it was well known that the New Lanark 
establishment, under the management of Owen, was 
almost certain to be successful, and a new partnership 
was soon formed. The high integrity of Owen and his 
practical skill were beyond doubt. The only question 
was whether, through zeal for the welfare of the 
workers, or (to ascribe his action to a motive with 
which many might be disposed to credit him) out of 
a too great attachment to his own ideas, he might not 
go so far as to land the company in a loss. However 
the affair might be regarded, it is nevertheless certain 
that he had no difficulty in getting as many partners 
and as much capital as he wanted for the purpose 
of carrying on the concern. Two persons, named 
Dennistown and Campbell, sons-in-law of Mr Camp- 
bell of Jura, who was distantly related to Robert 
Owen's wife, and who had placed ;£^20,ooo in his 
hands for investment, joined him. Mr John Atkin- 
son, one of his previous partners, also requested to be 
admitted into the new co-partnery. 

In a short time Owen set about the erection of the 
new schools, and was proceeding in a manner satis- 
factory to himself, when his new partners objected 

8o Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

as the old had done, declaring that they were cotton 
spinners and commercial men carrying on business 
for a profit, and, as such, had nothing to do with 
educating children, any more than any other co- 
partnery of cotton spinners in the kingdom. Not 
only did they do this, but they objected to every 
other form of improvement which he was making for 
the benefit of the workers. In fact he found himself 
in a worse position than ever, as these men objected 
not only to the investment of money for such a 
purpose in any form, but also exclaimed against the 
salaries given for superintendence and the wages paid 
for labour. 

Notwithstanding this, Owen went quietly on, carry- 
ing out his plans with his usual determination of 
purpose, until they served him with formal notice not 
to proceed with the schools. Finally, they gave notice 
for a dissolution of partnership, — being determined, if 
possible, to keep the works in their own hands, and to 
rid themselves of Owen in the capacity of a partner. 
He offered now, as in the previous case, to name a 
sum which he would give or take. This proposal they 
refused, and decided that the works should be dis- 
posed of by auction. He was much averse to this, 
but as the rest of the partners had resolved on this 
course, there was nothing else to be done. The 
determination of these gentlemen was to buy-in the 
place, and that they might have a good bargain as 
purchasers, they quietly reported unfavourably as to 
its value, naming ;^40,ooo as the highest penny it was 

While they were thus employed, Owen started for 
London, where his name was by this time well known, 

New Partnerships. 8i 

and succeeded in forming a co-partnery of the first 
respectability, including Jeremy Bentham, the utili- 
tarian philosopher. When his new partners asked 
the value of the works, he replied that they should not 
allow them to go under ;£"! 20,000. He was empowered 
to go to that sum at the sale. Armed thus, he and 
two of his new partners proceeded to Glasgow. One 
of the conditions of the sale was that no bid should 
be below ;£^ioo. His old partners were all there, and 
bid for themselves ; but he bid through an agent 
to whom he had given orders to follow the other 
side, always bidding just £\QO in advance. What 
is called the Hipset price was ;£^6o,ooo. They wished 
to put it at ;£'40,ooo, but as Owen offered to give 
;£^6o,ooo, which they refused, it was put up at £6ofX)0. 
On the plan arranged, the agent acting for Mr Owen 
followed, and steadily headed them by his quiet bid of 
;£^ioo in advance, until in the end the property they 
had declared not to be worth more than ;^40,ooo was 
knocked down to Owen at ;£^ 114,100, his opponents 
having gone as far as ;£^i 14,000. 

As soon as the purchase was completed, Owen and 
his new partners — the two, that is, who had attended 
the sale — posted off for the works triumphantly in a 
coach and four. The inhabitants of both the Lanarks 
had sent scouts in advance, to give notice of their 
coming ; and as they approached the old town, the 
people poured out on them, hurraying with delight, 
and unharnessing the horses, drew them into Lanark, 
when they were handed over to the villagers, who 
took them to the end of their journey, where they 
were received with the most sincere and heart- 
felt demonstrations of gratitude and joy. " My new 


< i .■ 

82 Life, Tiines^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

partners," he says, when describing this scene, " seemed 
to congratulate themselves that they had become con- 
nected with such people and such an establishment. 
It was a day and a proceeding which I shall never 
forget. It interested me deeply, and, if possible, 
increased my determination to do them (the people) 
and their children all the good in my power." It is 
with very excusable pride that Robert Owen dwells 
with more than usual satisfaction on this part of his 
story. He had managed the establishment for 
fourteen years in such a manner as to win the entire 
affection of the workers. He had done this by means 
of a liberality which had caused two sets of partners 
to separate from him. The second co-partnery had 
only lasted for four years, through nearly the whole 
of which time he had to put up with opposition of 
the most vexatious kind, an opposition in which the 
other partners were unanimous. Nothing but the all- 
absorbing desire to improve the condition of the people 
placed under his care, together with a positive belief 
that he was not doing this to the injury of his 
partners, could have supported him in the conflict. 
Under such circumstances it must have been a matter 
of great satisfaction to him, when the books were 
balanced, that over the four years during which the 
partnership continued, it was found, " after allowing 5 
per cent for the capital employed, that the net profit 
was ;£" 1 60,000." 

Owen now felt at liberty to act, and therefore 
pushed forward the schools which had been delayed 
by the opposition of his late partners. In about two 
years from this time, he had completed and furnished 
them in such a manner as to attract the attention of 

New Partnerships. 83 

all parties interested in education. In the infant 
schools the young were received at one year, or as 
soon as they could manage to walk. The parents 
could not understand what he meant to do with them, 
but when they saw the improvement made in the 
tempers, the character, and happiness of the children, 
they were anxious to send them at any age, however 
young, at which they could be received. 

In addition to the infant school, there was school 
accommodation for all under twelve years of age, 
after which, if their parents wished, they might enter 
the works, and contribute by their labour to the 
support of the family. To prevent any thought of 
charity in connection with the instruction they were 
receiving, the parents were charged threepence per 
month, or three shillings a year for each child. The 
actual expense of the establishment amounted to 
about two pounds a year for each child, and as there 
were three gradations, according to the age and 
acquirements of the children, the company paid the 
difference, and considered that they received ample 
value for the money thus expended, in the improved 
character of the young people. There was consider- 
able choice of employment for children, when the 
working period of life arrived ; as, beside the various 
branches of the cotton manufacture, there were 
mechanics, iron and brass founders, forgers, turners 
in wood and iron, and builders in all branches, so 
that, without going outside the establishment, there 
was employment in these various trades, in repairs 
in the mills and the village, to the extent of eight 
thousand pounds a year. 

Looking at the whole thing, we cannot regard his 

84 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

self- congratulations as excessive, when he tells us in 
his autobiographical sketch that " all the houses in the 
village, with 1 50 acres of land around it, formed a part 
of an establishment, which united, and working to- 
gether as one machine, proceeded day by day with the 
regularity of clockwork;" the effect of the whole being 
such, that Henry Hase, cashier for the Bank of Eng- 
land, when informed how long it had been going on, 
said that " it looked like the work of generations." 


Ebucation Struggle* 

It will be seen, from what has been said, that firmly 
determined as Robert Owen was that the people in 
the employment of the New Lanark Company should 
be educated, it was not because he was a man of 
"one idea," or because on that one point he had 
made up his mind to at all hazards carry out his 
plans. His thought extended to the workers in all 
the conditions of their lives. He had made human 
character a study, and was devoting his time and his 
means to the formation of an institution in connection 
with his works, the object of which was the cultiva- 
tion of intelligence and morality in the minds of the 
workers. He had examined the effects of the factory 
system, so far as they were then perceptible ; and had 
noted their influence on the health, the happiness, 
and morality of the people. By making himself 
acquainted, by practical work and by observation, 

Education Struggle. 85 

with the whole of the system in all its details, he was 
enabled to forecast the future, and to tell the world 
what the result of the wretched system the cotton 
manufacturers of the kingdom were developing and 
establishing would be. He was not declamatory or 
abusive. He did not, in any words he ever gave 
utterance to, denounce the manufacturers as selfish or 
wicked, — as men who were pursuing their own personal 
ends, though they knew that injury to the nation 
would follow. Before he spoke a word, he earned his 
right to speak, by practically experimenting on the 
points to which he meant to address himself. From 
almost the first years of his life as a manufacturer, 
the experience of every year, and a considerable 
portion of the gain of every year, were turned to 
account, in correcting the numerous evils which, in 
connection with factory labour, were visible every- 
where around him. 

I His first great labour was that of education. He 
performed this in the best way he could when he first 
undertook the management of New Lanark. He 
noted, day by day, the effects produced with the 
limited means at his disposal, and he urged, as we 
have seen, on unwilling partners the necessity of 
doing much more. During this time his studies as 
well as his labours were incessant ; not only was he 
battling with partners over the division of profits, and 
insisting that some fair portion should be used for 
the welfare of J;hose whose labour had so materially 
helped to produce it, but he was studying the 
effects of education in religion, morals, general intelli- 
gence, language, and manners, as observable among 
the people of all nations as well as among those under 

86 Life, Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

his care. The more he reflected on this subject, the 
more he became convinced of its paramount import- 
ance, and of the smallness of his own efforts in the 
limited sphere in which it was his lot to work. On 
this important subject Owen always laboured in a 
liberal and tolerant spirit. He believed that Lancas- 
ter's system of education was infinitesimal, compared 
with the requirements of the country. Lancaster had 
invented new and easy methods of elementary instruc- 
tion, by which one man could as a teacher get through 
much more work than under the old system then 
prevailing. vHe sought to distribute such education 
as was then given to a portion of the workers more 
widely. Owen approved of this, but felt the necessity 
of greatly improving the character of the education 
given. He was a firm and liberal friend to Lancaster 
and had given a thousand pounds to help him in his 
work. Dr Bell's system was taken up by the Church 
in rivalry to Lancaster's. Bell's system excluded 
Dissenters ; but, inasmuch as it meant the spread 
of intelligence by instruction, Owen expressed his 
willingness to help it, by giving another thousand 
pounds, if the committee would open the schools to 
children of all denominations ; but only half that sum 
if they continued to exclude Dissenters. This pro- 
posal, he says, was debated two days in full committee, 
and ultimately it was decided by a small majority to 
continue the exclusion of all Dissenters, and to accept 
only the five hundred pounds. In recording this, he 
adds, " In twelve months after, I had the satisfaction 
to learn that the practice which I had advocated was 

Towards the close of 1 812 he published two "Essays 

Education Struggle, 87 

on the Formation of Character." The first of these 
deals simply with general principles, pointing out the 
power of adult man over infant man, and the easiness 
with which, by wise training, a good general character 
may be secured to all. He urges the importance of 
this truth, by reference to the actual evils that 
had arisen in consequence of its non-recognition by 
society; alluding, in illustration/to the large masses of 
people in Great Britain, principally belonging to the 
working classes, for whose education no provision 
whatever was made, — who in consequence had fallen 
into a state of misery and crime, and were by 
their ignorance and criminal tendencies afflicting 
and injuring society.' It has been objected by persons 
opposed to Owen's views, that there was nothing new 
in the principle he laid down. This is quite true ; 
but in putting it forth, he did not claim the credit of 
a discovery. He simply claimed that he had systema- 
tised a series of facts already discovered, and made 
them applicable to the highest uses of life ; he had 
tested the principle he asserted by educating the 
children under his care, and had proved its truth and 
power. Having done so, he urged its application 
on the attention of society, not as a philosophical 
problem to be discussed, but as a pressing work in 
daily life upon which all thoughtful men should enter 
without loss of time. "The present essays," he re- 
marks, " are not brought forward as mere matter of 
speculation, to amuse the idle visionary who thinks in 
his closet and never acts in the world, but to create 
universal activity, permeate society with a knowledge 
of its true interests, and direct the public mind to the 
most important object to which it can be directed, — - 

88 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

to a national proceeding for rationally forming the 
character of that immense mass of the population 
which is now allowed to be so formed as to fill the 
world with crimes." i He calls attention to popular 
ignorance on the plea that, under a better and more 
universal system of education, " any character, from 
the best to the worst, from the most ignorant to the 
most enlightened, may be given to any community 
in the world at large, by the application of proper 
means, which means are, to a great extent, at the 
command and under the control of those who have 
influence in the affairs of men."./ 

When he wrote his essays on the formation of 
character, he saw very clearly the evils he had to 
contend against. The degradation of the working 
classes was always present to him. He saw it in 
Manchester in its worst forms, deepening and spread- 
ing with the system that helped to produce it. He 
saw, in the law, religious exclusions, — the result of 
prejudices possible only with men among whom ignor- 
ance of human nature prevailed. In Great Britain, 
Dissenters were trammelled by civil restrictions, 
Roman Catholics were oppressed and degraded by 
exclusive and ignominious laws, while Jews were by 
the law as well as by public opinion regarded with dis- 
like and distrust. Bad as such hatreds and oppressions 
were in England, they were worse elsewhere ; for while 
the people of England only disliked and oppressed, 
in other countries — where religious differences were 
more marked, and where religious prejudices were 
more free to operate — there often occurred deeds of 
violence which were prompted by a spirit of the most 
bitter animosity. 

Education Struggle, 


Such things in every form, whether near or remote, 
horrified Robert Owen ; and it was that a higher 
justice should come through a higher and better 
instruction, that he sought so earnestly to inculcate 
a belief in the soundness of his theory of the forma- 
tion of character. 

He said to all men, "You are the children of a 
common Father whom you worship under different 
names. In your relation to your common parent and 
to each other, you owe duties of love and help, which 
your ignorance and the antipathies springing from it 
deprive you of the power to perform. Where you 
ought to love, you hate ; where you ought to help, 
you hinder. You persecute and injure each other, 
because your skins differ in colour; because your 
religious opinions and forms of worship are not the 
same ; because you differ in language and habits ; 
whereas, if you understood yourselves and knew each 
other, and possessed that knowledge of the laws of 
your being which you ought to possess, and which 
ought most easily to be impressed on your minds, 
you would understand that you do not create for 
yourselves one of the distinctions concerning which 
you quarrel. The colour of your skin, your religious 
opinions and forms of worship, your language and 
habits, have been given to you — not chosen by you. 
You are the slaves of one set of prejudices, and not of 
another, by no choice of your own. At your birth 
you had no preference for black, brown, or white. 
You had no choice as to what country you should be 
born into, to what creed your parents should belong ; 
whether you should be a Bhuddist, a Mahomedan, a 
Christian, or a Jew ; what language you should speak, 

90 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

or what habits you should acquire. Your * character 
is to be formed for you, not by you ; ' so that in^stead 
of blaming and hating, fighting with and killing each 
other, it will be your duty in the recognition of this 
great truth, palpable to all who will open their eyes 
and see, to find out what is truest and best in each 
of these differences, and to give by education such 
qualities as will tend to produce the highest and 
best results in the human race/' 


XCbeorg \\\ 1Regar& to tbe importance of 


^The efforts made by Robert Owen on behalf of 
education, did not originate in, nor were they sustained 
by, humane or philanthropic impulses only. He had 
studied the subject carefully and deeply, and had 
come deliberately to the condition, that educatio n 
for the development of the indivi dual hu man creature, 
as well as for t he sa fety and progress of society, was 
the highest and most important duty men could be 
called on to perform./^ He deplored the wicked waste 
of human faculty and human happiness going on- 
daily and hourly around him, in consequence of the 
gross neglect of education.^] He was convinced that 
mere isolated efforts could be of little use in forward- 
ing so important and so pressing a work; but he 
knew, at the same time, that where associative or 
national effort could not be secured, each individual 


Theory in Regard to the Importance of Edtication. 9 1 

man was bound to do his best according to his 
opportunities ; so that a true sense of duty might 
be awakened in the public mind, and that, when this 
was done, practical methods, tested by experiment, 
might be at hand to enable the public to carry 
forward effectively so important a worki The or- 
dinary plan was to set up a small school somewhere 
in connection with the factory, and employ some old 
man or old woman to struggle as he or she could, 
enfeebled by age and ignorance, against the indis- 
position of the children to learn, wearied as they 
always were by the overwork of the factory. 

Such education sometimes did a little good, but 
advancing life, with its hardships and temptations, 
soon undid what the schoolmaster or schoolmistress 
had done; leaving the lives of the factory population 
to flow on in the old channels, contaminated by the 
new evil influences of the factory* system, lit was 
Robert Owen's great desire to see the question of 
education taken up by the nation in the truest and 
most liberal spirit^ He was impressed with the con- 
viction that it was criminal, in a very high degree, to 
appropriate the wealth then rapidly accumulating, and 
the power it brought with it, to the creation of large 
private fortunes, — to the growth or to the exaltation 
of one class, by the oppression and degradation of 
another class. /It was in this belief he commenced his 
labours in the cause of education, and it was because 
he felt deeply its importance to society, that he 
emphasised his views of the capabilities of man's 
nature, and the duty of instructing the young/ 
" Every minute dies a man, every minute one is 
born." Owen saw in this old truth an awful signi- 



92 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Oiven. 

ficance, by comparing the innocence at birth with the 
ignorance and depravity in life, and concluded that the 
best use of his own life and fortune lay in a prudent but 
earnest devotion of his time and means to the cause 
of education, more especially in connection with those 
in his employment. 

The commencement of the educational effort at 
New Lanark was meant to be the foundation of a 
permanent work, founded on principles which were to 
be sustained by a growing national conviction. From 
the beginning, every point was carefully reasoned out; 
and though what Owen called the "fundamental 
facts," on which the " rational system of society " was 
to be based, were not published for years after his 
schools were opened, yet the ideas contained in these 
were frequently stated during the time he devoted to 
the work of education among the population of New 
Lanark, as well as in several documents published 
by him before he had taken any position as a leader 
among the people. These " fundamental facts " were 
briefly put. Possibly they might have been stated 
with greater clearness ; still they were capable of 
being easily understood by the intelligent and candid, 
and beyond these Owen did not care to carry con- 

1. Man is a compound being, whose character is 
formed of his constitution or organisation at birth, 
and of the effects of external circumstances acting 
upon that organisation from birth to death, such 
original organisation and external influences con- 
tinually acting and reacting on each other. 

2. Man is compelled by his original constitution to 

Theory in Regard to the Importance of Education. 93 

receive his feelings and convictions independent of his 

3. His feelings or his convictions, or both of them 
united, create the motive to action called the will, 
which stimulates him to act, and decides his actions. 

4. The organisation of no two human beings is 
ever precisely similar at birth, nor can art subse- 
quently form any two individuals from infancy to 
maturity to be the same. 

5. Nevertheless, the constitution of every infant, 
except in case of organic disease, is capable of being 
formed or matured either into a very inferior or a 
very superior being, according to the qualities of the 
external circumstances allowed to influence that con- 
stitution from birth. 

In the Scriptures, and out of them, among the 
philosophers and the divines, much may be read as 
to man's subjection to the forces of nature and 
society, but nobody else applied what had been said 
on the subject — in a very vague and fragmentary 
way — so systematically to the lives of men, or 
sought so earnestly to impress on others the necessity 
of accepting and acting on these truths, with a 
view to the promotion of charity and kindliness in 
thought and action among men. And his over- 
sanguineness in regard to the rapid consummation 
of the work he had taken in hand, did not arise 
from his belief in the newness of his facts or doctrines, 
so much as from his strong faith in the effect of such 
a system of instruction if zealously applied. 

In his " Book of the New Moral World," published 
as late as 1836, there is a carefully prepared explana- 

94 LifCy Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

tion and defence of these propositions, which it may 
be necessary to notice further on. They are inserted 
here principally for the purpose of showing the 
grounds on which he proceeded, and the importance 
he attached to education, not merely as a means of 
fitting men and women for the performance of 
ordinary duties, but for the purpose of raising the 
whole level of life in its manhood and womanhood ; 
beginning with infancy, and never ceasing, by a wise 
substitution of good for evil in its surroundings, to 
increase its moral and intellectual power, and to 
thus secure human progress by making the pro- 
motion of it an important part of the common ever>^- 
day business of life. 


Better prospects* 

The schools were now pushed forward and finished, 
and a head master and mistress chosen. It is stated, 
however, very distinctly, that they were not selected 
because they possessed any high degree of fitness 
through intellectual acquirements, so much as that 
they were noticeable for good temper, patience, and a 
strong love for children. They were prepared for 
their new duties by instruction in the subjects they 
had to teach. Infants above one year attended school 
under special care. They were never permitted to 
hear angry words spoken, or to be wearied by a 
teaching unsuited to their age or capacity. The 

Better Prospects. 95 

schoolroom was a place where they found pleasant 
companionship, kindly superintendence, and an in- 
struction made agreeable by the mode in which it 
was conveyed. They were not unnecessarily troubled 
with books, or with the ordinary grind of the school- 
room. Their school hours were made enjoyable, and 
their instruction an interesting play time, passed under 
the supervision of persons who, by natural disposition 
and a strong sense of duty, sought to cultivate kindli- 
ness of character and manner, with as much, if not 
with more pains, than to instruct the mind according 
to the ordinary school routine. James Buchanan and 
Mary Young, the first master and mistress of the 
infant school, were informed, previous to entering on 
their duties, as to the intentions of the founder. They 
were never to speak angrily to, threaten, or beat a 
child. They were to instruct them, by word and 
action, how to make each other happy ; a duty also 
carefully impressed on the minds of the older children 
in relation to the younger. The children were to be 
taught the nature and uses 6f common things by 
familiar conversation, and the teachers were to 
utilise opportunities to impart such lessons when the 
children's curiosity caused them to ask questions 
either in the playground or the schoolroom. There 
was also a large and pleasant play^room, used 
when the weather was unfavourable for out -door 
recreation. The schoolroom was well furnished with 
carefully painted transparencies of object^ in natur^J 
history, framed so as to pass before the children 
on rollers. Large coloured maps of the best kind 
hung on the walls. On these maps, as Owen tells 
us, were delineated the usual national boundaries, but 


96 LifCy Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

that there were no names of countries, cities, or towns, 
the positions of these being indicated by smaller or 
larger circles. Around these maps the children, to the 
number of about one hundred and fifty, were grouped. 
A long wand was provided, by which the smallest 
child could reach to the highest point on the map. 
The lesson commenced by one of the children taking 
the wand, and when asked to do so by another, point- 
ing to any particular country, city, mountain, or lake. 
In this way, he says, children when they arrived at six 
years of age became such adepts in geographical 
knowledge, that one of our admirals, who had visited 
most parts of the world, declared that he could not 
answer many of the questions to which the New 
Lanark children readily replied in his presence. 

So efficacious was this kind of teac^^'ng, through 
the delight the children took in ' cor acted as it 
was, that their progress caused piise and pleasure 
to all who inspected the establishment, and the 
schools had not been long in operation before they 
were visited by men of all classes who took an interest 
in the education question. Teaching by book Robert 
Owen regarded as the least effectual method with 
young children, and he expresses an opinion that 
when the best means of instructing the young shall 
be known and applied, books will not be used with 
children under ten. 

The schools for the more advanced in years and 
acquirements received equal attention, and the pro- 
gress in knowledge, kindliness of temper, and good 
manners was jnost 'satisfactory. One feature is thus 
referred to : — " Those at two year of age and above 
had commenced dancing lessons, and those of four 

Better Prospects. 97 

years of age and upwards singing lessons, under 
good teachers. Both sexes were also drilled, and 
became efficient in the military exercises ; being 
formed into divisions, led by young drummers and 
fifers, they were very expert and perfect in these 
exercises." Robert Owen gives in his own words 
an account of his proceedings. " The children," he 
says, " being always treated with kindness and con- 
fidence, and being altogether without fear, even of a 
harsh word from any of their numerous teachers, 
exhibited an unaffected grace and natural polite- 
ness which surprised and fascinated strangers. The 
conduct of the children was to most of the visitors 
so unaccountable, that they knew not how to 
express themselves, or how to hide their wonder and 
ctmazement These children standing up, seventy 
couples at c* tie '" the dancing- room, and often sur- 
rounded by many i ' ^angers, would with the utmost 
ease and natural grace, go through any of the dances 
of Europe with so little direction from their master, 
that the visitors would be unconscious that there 
was a dancing-master in the room. In their singing 
lessons, 150 would sing at the same time, their voices 
being trained to harmonise ; and it was delightful to 
hear them sing the old popular Scotch songs, which 
were great favourites with most strangers, from the 
unaffected simplicity and hearty feeling with which 
they were sung. Their military exercises they went 
through with a precision, equal, as many officers of 
the army stated, to some regiments of the line, and at 
their head in their marchings were six and sometimes 
eight young fifers f iriaying various marches. The girls 
were thus drilled and disciplined as well as the boys, 


98 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

and their numbers were generally nearly equal. And 
it may be remarked, that being daily brought up 
together, they appeared to feel for and to treat each 
other as brothers and sisters ; and so they continued 
until they left the day schools at the age of twelve." 

The visitors who went to New Lanark, for the 
purpose of seeing the schools in operation, were 
very numerous. They arrived "not by hundreds, 
but by thousands annually." " I have seen," says 
Owen, "as many as seventy strangers at once 
attending the early morning exercises of the children 
in the school." Among these visitors were many of 
the first persons in the kingdom, as well as numbers 
of illustrious stangers. The Duke of Holstein (Olden- 
burgh) and his brother stayed several days with Owen 
at New Lanark, that they might thoroughly under- 
stand the machinery of the system of infant educa- 
tion established there ; the Grand Duke Nicholas, 
afterwards Emperor of Russia ; Prince John and 
Maximilian of Austria; many foreign ambassadors; 
among others. Baron Just, ambassador from Saxony, 
whose sovereign presented a gold medal to Robert 
Owen as a mark of approval. 

When Owen visited London, and was residing in 
Bedford Square, at the house of Mr Walker, one of 
his partners, the Duke of Kent and his brother the 
Duke of Sussex paid him several visits. For many 
years the former was in close and constant com- 
munication with Owen on the subject of the reforms 
he was busy in projecting, not only in regard to 
popular education, but in connection with the condi- 
tion of the people generally. So strong was the 
approval of what he was doing, that the friends of 

Better Prospects. 99 

education in London, among whom was Henry 
Brougham, afterwards Lord Brougham, sought to 
establish schools of the same character, and obtained 
the assistance of Owen's infant-school master to that 
end ; but this attempt was not a success, as allow- 
ance had not been made for the many differences 
between the child-life of New Lanark and that of an 
overcrowded and demoralised metropolitan district. 

As may be seen by the encouragement and support 
he gave to Lancaster and Bell, Owen was in favour of 
any effort that could be made for education. He 
was convinced that no labour in such a cause could 
be thoroughly effective, that did not, as far as possible, 
remove the evil example of the old from before the 
eyes of the young, and shut out the contaminations of 
their language and manners. The instruction of the 
school he regarded as but one of many agencies, the 
success of which did not depend altogether on the plan 
of teaching or the things taught, the counteracting 
influences of the home and the street powerfully 
affecting the result of such instruction. What Owen 
really thought on this part of the subject, may be 
gathered from a speech delivered by him when pre- 
siding at a public dinner given to Joseph Lancaster, I - -^ 
in Glasgow, in 18 12. Speaking of the plans of 
Lancaster, he said, — " By education, I now mean the 
instruction of all kinds which we receive from our 
earliest infancy until our characters are generally 
fixed and established. It is, however, necessary that 
the value of this object should be considered, as well 
as the means of putting it into execution. Much has 
been said and written in relation to education, but 
few persons are yet aware of its real importance in 

lOO Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

society, and certainly it has not acquired that promi- 
nent rank in our estimation which it deserves, for, 
when duly investigated, it will be found to be, so far 
at least as depends on our operations, the primary 
source of all the good and evil, misery and happiness, 
which exist in the world. Let us," he continues, 
"observe the different appearances bodily and men- 
tally which the inhabitants of the various regions of 
the earth present. Are they inherited in our nature, 
or do they arise from the respective soils on which 
we are born ? Evidently from neither. They are 
wholly and solely the effects of that education I have 
described. Man becomes a wild ferocious savage, a 
cannibal, or a highly civilised and benevolent being, 
according to the circumstances in which he may be 
placed from his birth." 

Pursuing and illustrating the subject in hand, he 
sought to impress on the gentlemen present the fact 
"that if any given number of children were exchanged 
at birth between the Society of Friends, of which our 
worthy guest, Joseph Lancaster, is a member, and the 
loose fraternity of St Giles in London, the children 
of the former would grow up like the members of the 
latter, prepared for every degree of crime, while those 
of the latter would become the same temperate, good, 
moral characters as the former. Let us," he proceeds, 
" take every means in our power to interest all those 
who have any weight or influence in the city, to enter 
heartily into the support and extension of the Lan- 
casterian system of education for the poor, until every 
child of that class shall find a place in one of the 
schools. The schools which will contain the younger 
children in the day time will likewise serve for even- 

9 * v' ^ W • * 

• - * 

» • 

Better Prospects, lOi 

ing and Sunday schools, at which times those who 
may be past the proper age for the first, and strangers 
that come amongst us, may be instructed. But," he 
continues, " it will be almost in vain to well educate 
the few, if they are to spend the greater part of their 
time among the ignorant and the vicious many. The 
manners and habits of the latter will counteract our 
good intentions to the former." 

At the commencement of his public life he was 
very desirous to obtain the co-operation of his brother 
manufacturers, and for this purpose he appealed to 
them in a document prefixed to his third " Essay on 
the Formation of Character," and addressed to " The 
superintendents of manufactories, and those individuals 
generally, who, by giving employment to an aggregated 
population, may easily adopt the means to form the 
sentiments and manners of such a population." In this j^^ 
address he says, — "Many of you have long experienced 
in your manufacturing operations the advantage of sub- 
stantial, well contrived, and well executed machinery. 
Experience has also shown you the difference of the 
results between mechanism which is neat, clean, well 
arranged, and always in a high state of repair, and that 
which is allowed to be dirty, in disorder, without the 
means of preventing unnecessary friction, and which 
therefore becomes and works much out of repair. In 
the first case, the whole economy and management are 
good, every operation proceeds with ease, order, and 
success ; in the last, the reverse must follow, and a 
scene be presented of counteraction, confusion, and 
dissatisfaction among all the agents and instruments 
interested or occupied in the general process, which 
cannot fail to create great loss. If, then, due care as 


I02 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

to the state of your inanimate machines can produce 
such beneficial results, what may not be expected if 
you devote equal attention to your vital machines, 
which are far more wonderfully constructed ? When 
you shall acquire a right knowledge of these, of their 
curious mechanism, of their self-adjusting powers, 
when the proper mainspring shall be applied to their 
varied movements, you will become conscious of their 
real value, and you will readily be induced to turn 
your thoughts more frequently from your inanimate 
to your living machines. You will discover that the 
latter may be easily trained and directed to procure a 
large increase of pecuniary gain, while you may also 
derive from them high and substantial gratification. 
Will you, then, continue to expend large sums of money 
to procure the best devised mechanism of wood, brass, 
or iron, and to retain it in perfect repair, — to provide 
the best substance for the prevention of unnecessary 
friction, and to save it from falling into premature 
decay ? Will you also devote years of intense applica- 
tion to understand the connection of the various parts 
of these lifeless machines, to improve their effective 
powers, and to calculate with mathematical precision 
all their minute and combined movements? And 
when, in these transactions, you estimate time by 
minutes, and the money expended for the chance of 
increased gain by fractions, will you not afford some 
of your attention to consider whether a portion of 
your time and capital would not be more advan- 
tageously applied to improve your living machines ? 
From experience that cannot deceive me, I venture to 
assure you that your time and money so applied, if 
directed by a true knowledge of the subject, would 

Importance of his Work at New Lanark, 103 

return you not 5, or 10, or 20 per cent, for your capital 
so expended, but often 50 and in many cases 100 per 


importance ot bis Morft at Hew Xanarft* 

Robert Owen knew by experience the degraded 
condition of the people employed in the cotton 
factories, and he felt that the longer such a state of 
things was permitted to continue, the more difficult it 
would become to lift them out of that condition. His 
exertions aroused the active opposition of a large 
section of the factory owners. Whilst Owen was in 
London fighting the Factory Bill before a Parlia- 
mentary committee, the employers were compelled to 
give time and trouble in resisting the proposed legisla- 
tion, and in endeavouring to discredit those who were 
fighting resolutely to forward it. One of the methods 
used was to awaken public distrust and hatred, by 
attacking on religious grounds the system pursued by 
Owen at New Lanark ; and so far did they proceed in 
this direction, that watch was set over Owen by means 
of the clergyman belonging to the parish. This was 
carried so far, that Mr Menzies, the minister employed 
for this purpose, was taken to London by the manu- 
facturers* committee; but no attempt was made to 
prove anything against Owen, though whispers as to 
his infidelity in religion, and the dangerous nature of 
his proceedings generally, were beginning to circulate. 
The moral and intellectual elevation of the masses 

104 Ltf^y Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

of the working people still continued, after the close of 
the French war, to be regarded as a serious political 
danger; and though liberal men of enlightened minds 
were friendly to popular progress, so saturated was 
the public mind with terror of a dreaded democracy, 
that reform of any kind lay open to the chance of 
being denounced as the carrying out of covert designs 
to upset the throne, attack property, and subvert 
religion. What Owen's attitude was at this moment 
has been fully explained by himself in many docu- 
ments extensively circulated. No man was less 
reticent. In regard to his ideas on religious and 
social subjects, he had no concealments of thought or 
policy. On these points, nevertheless, it may be 
better that others should speak for him. He was not 
a controversialist in the ordinary meaning of the term, 
— more truly might he be called an experimentalist. 
Had his first attempts to organise a useful system of 
education failed, the probability is that he would have 
confined himself more exclusively to his duties as a 
mere manufacturer, and in the ordinary way enlarged 
the pecuniary gains of himself and his partners ; 
aiding, most likely with a liberal hand, whoever 
might be promoting the instruction of the young. 
He was successful, however, beyond his most sanguine 
expectations, and therefore he was determined to 
push forward and complete an experiment promising 
so much good as an example to others. 

There is every reason to believe that Owen's last 
set of partners felt thoroughly satisfied with his 
management as a mere employer of labour and 
maker of profit. The profit realised was more than 
the deed of partnership asked for, and the condition 

Importance of his Work at Nezu Lanark. 105 

of the works and the people employed was all that 
could be desired. The celebrated Jeremy Bentham 
was one of the partners, and his well-known liberality 
of mind removed any suspicion that he would 
interfere with the working of the establishment be- 
cause the orthodoxy of Owen was suspected. The 
schools had gone on improving and developing, and 
the results, shown by the improvement of the people 
from day to day, became more evident. 

From 1 8 16 to 1822 they had attracted so much 
notice, that his general plan of dealing with the popu- 
lation of his village was regarded as suited to the 
general condition of society, especially as applied to 
the poor of the kingdom. Pauperism just then was 
rapidly increasing, while on all hands discontented 
workers were threatening the peace and safety of the 
kingdom. The British and Foreign Philanthropic 
Society was organised principally for the purpose of 
trying Owen's plans ; but though at the first general 
meeting subscriptions to the extent of ;^5 5,000 were 
announced, practical operations could not be under- 
taken, with any fair chance of success, unless a much 
larger sum was subscribed ; and as by this time, and 
soon after, a very widespread suspicion of the hetero- 
doxy of his opinions was spread abroad, the more 
timid took flight. When the meeting took place, the 
first whispers of alarm only were heard. The list of 
vice-presidents contained ten names of ambassadors 
and foreign ministers, while the acting committee 
included those of no fewer than fifteen members 
of Parliament. This first general meeting was held in 
the Freemason's Hall, Great Queen Street, London, 
on. the 1st of June 1822, — Viscount Torrington in the 

io6 Life^ Times^ aiid Labours of Robert Owen. 

chair. The report, read to the meeting by the Earl of 
Blessington, contains an outline of the plans and pro- 
ceedings of the association ; and in this report, and in 
the speeches that followed, the highest praise is be- 
stowed on Robert Owen, his character, and his labour. 
"The committee," says the report, "have been favoured 
with the most liberal communications from Robert 
Owen, Esq., of New Lanark, in whose humane and 
enlightened mind originated the plans which have 
since (under his prudent management) been brought 
into successful practice ; and to whose benevolence, 
public spirit, and practical knowledge, the public are 
indebted for the most valuable collection of facts and 
successful experiments that have ever been attended 
to in the cause of suffering humanity. They would 
therefore consider it a dereliction of duty not to 
confess the high sense they entertain of Mr Owen's 
intelligence, candour, and obliging courtesy, in sub- 
mitting all his plans to their most scrutinising 
examination." James Maxwell, M.P., in seconding 
the adoption of the report moved by the Earl of 
Blessington, said, " I have seen sufficient of the plan 
proposed by my friend Mr Owen, to know that there 
are means by which a great deal of the vice and the 
miseries of the lower orders may be removed. Giving 
rational education, and accompanying that education 
with the Bible, must promote the great and important 
interests of society ; while it holds out the prospect 
which leads to the attainment of happiness hereafter, 
it makes active virtue the road by which alone it can 
be approached. Mr Owen, for a great length of time, 
has devoted his attention to the state of the working 
classes, by which he has considerably promoted their 

Importance of his Work at Neiv Lanark, 107 

comfort and happiness. He has formed good habits 
even in children, by moral and religious instruction." 

Sir W. de Crispigny, M.P., said that when he first 
heard of Mr Owen's plans, he looked on them as 
visionary ; but reflecting on the amount of good 
that must result from them, if practicable, he took a 
journey into Scotland, and visited Mr Owen. " I 
examined everything, both when he was with me and 
when he was not with me. The latter method 1 
adopted, to see how the plan proceeded at a time 
when no one was expected to examine it, and to 
discover if I could possibly find any trippings. First, 
I saw little children a year-and-a-half old, some a 
little older, in a sort of playground, — but with a 
degree of harmlessness, of fondness, and of attention 
to each other, which we do not often witness in this 
country ; thus proving that an attention to their 
education, in this early period of life, tends to form 
the salutary habits which will hereafter grow up to 
maturity. I went on, and observed another set learn- 
ing to read. I saw them reading the Bible, — that 
book designed and calculated to impress them with 
their duty to God and man, and to produce all those 
results which lead to present and future happiness. 
Here, then, is the best fruit, and the strongest recom- 
mendation of our cause. On the Sunday I attended 
their services. There are different places of worship 
which they frequent. Near them is the orthodox 
church. The Dissenters and Methodists have one or 
two places, and some other denominations. But I 
never saw more propriety, good conduct, and devo- 
tion, in any place, and I wish to God I could always 
see such in this country." 

lo8 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

Lord Torrington, on leaving the chair, said, " I had 
long heard a great deal of New Lanark, I therefore 
took an opportunity of visiting that far-celebrated 
place, and nothing has been to-day stated respecting 
it that is not confirmed by nny own knowledge, or to 
which I do not wholly agree. No language can do 
justice to the excellence of the arrangennents in that 
establishment. At New Lanark Mr Owen has fre- 
quently a meeting of from i,ooo to 1,200 persons, 800 
of them are from sixteen to twenty years of age, all 
uniting in friendly conversation, accompanied by some 
instrumental music. I stole out about a quarter of an 
hour before the meeting broke up, to see if I could not 
discover a little irregularity among so many young 
people ; but their conduct was that of friendship and 
brotherly regard, and in ten minutes every individual 
was in his house with order and regularity. In my 
walks about the establishment 1 requested Mr Owen 
not to attend me, that I might judge for myself; and 
I am convinced that whoever has seen what I have 
seen, can have no doubt as to the excellence of the 
plan, and must be a hearty supporter of the measures 
we have this day met to promote." 

In fact, nothing could be more complete than the 
success of New Lanark ; and Robert Owen, in speak- 
ing of it in after -years, though he insisted on the 
necessity of kindly and generous treatment for the 
adult workers in connection with their employment, 
— indeed, for the old and the young at all times and 
under all circumstances, — yet his master-belief was, 
that the careful and kindly education of the young was 
the truest foundation for a good and useful life, and the 
best safeguard for the peace and welfare of society. 

^Importance of his Work at New Lanark. 109 

His village, during his efforts in the cause of educa- 
tion, consisted of from 2,500 to 3,000 persons of all 
ages. An American traveller (Mr Griscom) who stayed 
some time at New Lanark, sums up his conclusions 
in the following words : — ** There is not, I apprehend, 
to be found in any part of the world a manufacturing 
village in which so much order, good government, 
tranquillity, and rational happiness prevail." Another 
visitor of some importance was Dr Macnab, physician 
to the Duke of Kent, who went by the desire of His 
Royal Highness to inspect and report on the con- 
dition of the establishment. His report has been 
published ; but there is only space to say here, that his 
praise of Owen's general management is unbounded, 
particularly in regard to the education of the young. 

To give a correct idea of what Owen effected at 
New Lanark, it would be necessary to furnish a con- 
trast by describing the ordinary factory establishment 
to be found at that time in the cotton districts of 
Lancashire and Cheshire. In these districts there 
was often, among certain of the employers, an entire 
neglect of everything but mere money-making, and 
the consequence was a state of life and morals unfit 
to be referred to except in general terms, — ignorance, 
immorality, crime, and physical deterioration. In 
New Lanark, there was recognition of the capabilities 
of the human creature, and the duty of developing 
these by a careful culture ; of devoting a portion 
of the profits made by the business in which the 
people were engaged to the education of their children 
and the improvement of their lives, intellectually, 
morally, and socially. 

The importance of Owen's work at New Lanark 

no LifCy Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

was not in the improvement he made in the children 
by education, or in the condition of their parents by- 
general good treatment, taken as the final result, so 
much as in the fact that he had commenced and 
carried on his operations at what may be called the 
opening of our huge system of cotton manufacturing, 
when, through indifference and neglect on the part of 
the manufacturers, the worst and most deplorable 
consequences had begun to show themselves. At 
such a time efforts like those of Owen were 
specially needed. And as he had proved not their 
practicability alone, but their economy in a business 
point of view, his example, had it been continued, 
might have spared the nation, in connection with this 
one great branch of its industry, the shame of the 
physical and moral degradation by which it has been 
attended, as well as the serious loss and deep humilia- 
tion resulting from the ignorance and vice of the 
people. The " cry of the children " was not unheard 
by Owen, nor unattended to ; and what is more, as 
an earnest labourer on their behalf, that which he did 
was well planned, and so wisely carried out, that the 
results were an astonishment to all who examined 

The story as to how the New Lanark experiment 
was brought to an end is rather disheartening, as it 
shows how good men with excellent intentions may 
defeat the best efforts, through defects of character 
which, though regarded as virtues, yet produce results 
much the same as vices. Just at the time when 
Owen had won the approval of large numbers of the 
most influential people, and when outside inquiry and 
effort were making known and aiding in the promul- 

William Allen. in 

gation of his ideas, the narrow fanaticism he so much 
condemned began to operate actively against him, 
and from such a quarter that it was out of his 
power to guard himself against it, unless by going 
through another process of breaking up and recon- 
structing, which, after what he had already passed 
through, would have been too much to expect. 


MilUam Hllem 

Among the last set of Owen's partners the most 
active was William Allen. He was a member of the 
Society of Friends, and a very conscientious and 
well-intentioned man, but to all appearances full of 
the vanity of piety, being narrow in his views 
and vexatiously aggressive in small matters. This is 
certainly the impression left by a perusal of his " Life 
and Selections from His Correspondence." He visited 
St Petersburg in 1819, and was invited to dinner, in 
company with two or three of his friends, by the 
Minister of the Interior, Waradaveloff, and he solemnly 
writes, — "We were treated with the most marked 
respect, and I had to hand the Princess Troobelskoy 
into the dining-room. Such conspicuous positions are 
very trying to me, but I endeavour to put the very 
best face upon the matter, and must acknowledge that 
hitherto I have been favoured to acquit myself upon all 
trying occasions in a manner which has offered peace 
in the retrospect." Prospectively or retrospectively, 

112 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

taking a lady to the dinner-table does not seem to be 
a matter a sensible man would trouble himself to write 
about or think of after the lady had taken her seat. 
During the same visit to St Petersburg he writes, — 
** After tea, dear Stephen and 1 sat down together, 
and had a precious season of religious retirement. 
My petitions were mentally put up to the Lord that 
He would be pleased to look down upon His two 
poor solitary servants, wandering over the face of His 
earth ; and my mind was so filled with divine good 
that I was ready to say, * It is enough.' We were 
sweetly refreshed together." This kind of self-con- 
sciousness cannot be made subject of reproof or of 
ridicule, but it is pretty clear that the man who is 
troubled with it can scarcely be regarded as an agree- 
able or profitable fellow-worker where there is not 
conformity of opinion, and between William Allen 
and Robert Owen this did not exist. ' 

From the first he regarded Owen with suspicion ; 
while there can be no doubt Owen was on the look- 
out for trouble from a partner whose judgment it was 
impossible he could respect, and whose opportunities 
to interfere with his educational efforts he knew 
would be frequent. Owen's mind was vigorous and 
courageous. He was decidedly in favour of allowing 
truth and falsehood to fight their battle out fairly, 
and therefore encouraged general reading, music, 
singing, and dancing ; and would have laughed at an 
admonition to be found in the first volume of William 
Allen's " Life and Correspondence," and given to a 
young Frenchman under his care, *' Be careful not to 
read books of an immoral tendency, as novels, romances, 
&c., and endeavour to discourage it in others ; they 

WtUiam Allen, I13 

are poison to the mind." A man of this kind be- 
ginning to labour with Owen was no doubt entitled 
to exercise circumspection, but Mr Allen went much 
further than this. In his " Life," &c., we find these 
entries : — " Ninth month. Attending the committee 
of the Borough Road. Also a conference with some 
of the partners of Owen. Robert Owen is in town, 
and I am much distressed about him. He has 
blazoned abroad his infidel principles in all the public 
newspapers, and he wishes to identify me with his 
plans, which I have resisted in the most positive 
manner. I am resolved not to remain in the concern 
of New Lanark, unless it be most narrowly and 
constantly watched by some one on whom we can 
thoroughly rely." Again, same month : — " I had a 
conference with Lord Sidmouth, and stated to him 
how much we held in abhorrence the principles of 
Robert Owen." 

The best reply to so unfounded an accusation is 
that one year and eleven months after this " blazoning " 
of infidel opinions in all the public newspapers, the 
committee appointed to report on Mr Owen's plan, 
under the presidency of the Duke of Kent, and includ- 
ing the names of the Duke of Sussex, Sir Robert Peel, 
M.P., David Ricardo, M.P., Matthew Wood, M.P., Sir 
W. C De Crispigny, M.P., W. A. Mackinnon, M.P., 
John Smith, M.P., besides twenty-nine other names of 
the highest respectability, treat this particular charge 
in the following way : — " The committee are aware 
of many objections which have been urged against 
Mr Owen's system, but none of those stated have 
appeared to them as founded in reason or in fact. The 
private opinions which Mr Owen has been supposed 


1 14 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Oiven. 

to entertain on matters of religion form one of such 
objections. This is a point on which it has not been 
thought fit to require Mr Owen to make any public 
declaration, it is deemed sufficient to have ascertained 
that Mr Owen is not known to have in any one 
instance endeavoured to alter the religious opinions 
of persons in his employment ; that the desires of his 
workmen to attend their respective places of worship 
are complied with, and aided to the utmost extent ; 
that a minister has long been paid by the proprietors 
of the manufactory under Mr Owen's management 
for performing divine service in the Gaelic tongue to 
the Highland workmen ; that Mr Owen's own house 
is a house of daily prayer ; that he is the father of a 
large, well-regulated, moral family ; that his conduct 
appears to be free from reproach ; and that his char- 
acter is distinguished by active benevolence, perfect 
sincerity, and undisturbed tranquillity of temper." 

Sufficient as this may be considered for sensible 
and fair-minded men of the world, it was not enough 
for the person who could write of novels and romances, 
&c., — including, most likely, the works of Shakespeare, 
— as of " immoral tendency," and as being ** poison 
to the mind." On the 20th of April 18 18, William 
Allen writes as follows : — " This has been a trying 
week, as 1 have had deep exercise of mind on account 
of Robert Owen's infidel principles. I have sustained 
many disputes with him." On May the 6th, the same 
year, he writes that he asked Mrs Owen whether the 
workpeople at New Lanark would meet the London 
proprietors, three of whom were then at Lanark. 
Mrs Owen at once said they would be quite ready ; 
and when Owen met William x\llcn at dinner he 

William A lien. 1 1 5 

asked him if they were disposed to have a meeting. 
" I told him that I did feel inclined to meet the 
people, but it was only fair to state that if I did, I 
could not answer for what I might say to them. I 
added that I should certainly prepare nothing before- 
hand, though since he had addressed them on his 
principles, I might feel it right to state what were 
ours. He immediately said, * Will to-morrow evening 
do ? ' I assented ; and in the kindest manner he said 
that notice should be given to all the village." This 
meeting went off very well, but a curious incident in 
connection with it was the presentation of a written 
address by the people of the village to the three 
London partners, containing the following words : — 
" We, the inhabitants of New Lanark, beg to address 
ourselves to you as part proprietors of the establish- 
ment, on your appearance amongst us. We are fully 
aware, gentlemen, that although your other pursuits 
may prevent your continued residence in the village, 
yet, whatever tends to add to our comfort or render 
our circumstances easier will meet with your appro- 
bation, and, in this view, we regard it as not un- 
necessary to thank you, thus publicly, for the many 
advantages we enjoy through your co-operation with 
Mr Owen, and the other partners in the concern. 
The care that is taken in gratuitously educating our 
children, and the humane treatment we experience 
under the persons to whom is committed the manage- 
ment of the various departments, are advantages that 
call forth our earnest expressions of gratitude. We 
are sensible that our circumstances are much superior 
to those of all other cotton-spinners, and it is our 
desire by a steady attention to our various duties 

1 1 6 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

to merit a continuance of the kindness we now 
experience. We hope the interest you have taken 
(in conjunction with the other proprietors) in the Bill 
now pending in Parliament, having for its object to 
place others of the labouring class in some degree on 
a footing with ourselves, will be rewarded by your 
seeing it pass into law. We conclude by expressing 
our desire that all cotton-spinners may enjoy the same 
advantages as we do ; then would the masters feel 
the superior gratification arising from possessing the 
affections of a well-treated and happy people, and 
their servants that pleasure which a continued kind 
attention on the part of the master is calculated to 
afford. With much respect, gentlemen, we sign our- 
selves in the name and by the request of the inhabit- 
ants of New Lanark." (Here follow eight signatures.) 
There is only one paragraph omitted from this 
remarkable address, but this is for no reason beyond 
mere condensation. In the first volume, page 348, 
of Allen's " Life,'* the substance of a long reply by Mr 
Allen to this address is given. It speaks of the pleasure 
felt by himself and the other partners in second- 
ing and supporting their " benevolent friend, Robert 
Owen, in those judicious and enlightened plans'' 
devised by him for the temporal comfort of the people, 
"and prosecuted with so much success." "Woeful 
experience in other places has shown, that to en- 
deavour to extract the greatest quantity of profit 
from such a concern at the expense of the health 
and comfort of those employed in it, is a policy at 
once short-sighted and cruel, and calculated eventually 
to lead to results baneful to society at large and 
highly dangerous to the State." There is following 

William Allen, 1 17 

this some three pages of the ordinary reh'gious ex- 
hortation, very good, but not very applicable to the 
community to which they were addressed. The 
language addressed by the New Lanark workers to 
their employers, and by Mr Allen to them, furnishes 
ample proof that the relations existing between the 
employers and the employed were as good as could 
be, that this was owing to the kindness and intelligent 
management of Robert Owen, and that in his teaching 
nothing had been done to awaken even the slightest 
suspicion on the part of the parents that the minds of 
the children were being unfairly tampered with. 

On the day these proceedings took place, we find 
the following from the hand of the pious Quaker 
partner: — "Joseph Foster and I took a walk to Old 
Lanark to see the minister there, and inquire into the 
moral state of the people of the mills. He said he 
was not aware of any case of drunkenness for a year 
or two past, and he did not think that Owen's princi- 
ples took any root among the population. We then 
went to another of their ministers ; he gave us a very 
good account of the morals of the people at the mills, 
and I find that he visits them often. He seemed 
heartily glad to hear our sentiments on the subject of 
the Scriptures, &c.,and we urged him to visit the schools 
and see that they were taught there, and also to corre- 
spond with us if he saw any attempt made to intro- 
duce anything contrary to revealed religion." Clearly, 
the man who could set up a secret supervision of this 
kind could scarcely be regarded as a desirable fellow- 
worker, notwithstanding the piety of his character or 
the purity of his intentions. 

No opportunity of interference was neglected from 

Ii8 Life, Times y and Labours of Robert Owen, 

the moment William Allen first began meddling with 
the school arrangements at New Lanark, until Robert 
Owen hopelessly abandoned the attempt to persevere, 
thwarted as he was by the sickly and persevering piety 
of his Quaker partner. In the January of 1824 Allen 
succeeded in forcing on the schools a master from 
London, no doubt properly instructed as to the 
changes to be made. He says in regard to this : — " My 
mind was much relieved ; I believe that through the 
whole of this trying and exercising business divine 
support has been near. Though the family are very 
kind, yet the one thing is wanting." In parting from 
the two young Owens, he tells his readers that he 
" reminded them that the time would come to each of 
them when they would find that religion was no fiction 
but a solemn reality." Even with this sort of unctuous 
vanity, when he believed it to be well meant, Robert 
Owen was not the man to quarrel. " I now feel peace- 
ful," Mr Allen exclaimed ; but it may be taken for 
granted that Owen, who had given so many years of 
his life to the organisation of the Lanark schools, and 
to the promotion of the welfare of the inhabitants, 
felt anything rather than peaceful and happy in the 
thought of a life's work being rendered of little or no 
avail by a fanatical imbecility, to have striven against 
which would have only wasted his time and his 
energies. William Allen, however, was not satisfied 
with an absolute non-interference with the liberty of 
religious teaching, and the charity attending it, 
though the people were well-behaved and kindly in 
their lives, and Owen, by his plans and labours, had 
succeeded in making those under his charge excep- 
tionally virtuous and happy. 

William Allen. 1 19 

The general statements in William Allen's "Life 
and Correspondence" give no idea of the true cha- 
racter of his opposition to Owen. When he speaks 
of "proper" education, he means simply what he, 
in his extreme sanctimoniousness, deemed to be 
" proper ; " and what this might be with a person 
who regarded novels and romances as immoral and 
poisonous books, it is not difficult to imagine. The 
points on which he took his stand, when he had finally 
made up his mind to finish the educational work that 
had answered so admirably in Owen's hands, were 
dancing, singing, drilling, and the use of the Highland 
costume. These, in his eyes, were all exceedingly 
improper ; they poisoned the mind with lightness and 
vanity, with a taste for military display, and, it might 
be, the glory of the battlefield ; whilst the naked legs 
of the children so shocked his sense of propriety, and 
foreshadowed so much of immorality in after-life, 
that his stand against the New Lanark schools was 
final and successful. The schools went on for several 
years after, and, as long as Owen remained, without 
their efficiency being lessened, but there was no hearty 
co-operation from the London partners. William 
Allen writes to Owen after the visit in 1822, when he 
had made his mind up to have his own way : — " I 
yesterday received thy reply to my letter announcing 
our safe return to London. That reply awakened 
afresh all the sympathy which I have ever felt for the 
benevolent part of thy character. Sorry indeed am I 
to see that our principles are diametrically opposite ; 
and may that Great and Holy Being, who seeth not 
as man sees, so influence thy heart, before the shadows 
of the evening close upon thee, that it may become 

I20 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

softened and receive those impressions which He 
alone can give ; then thou wilt perceive that there 
is indeed something infinitely beyond human reason, 
and which human reason alone can never compre- 
hend, though in itself perfectly reasonable. At present^ 
however, it is quite plain to me that we must part!' 

The assumption of personal superiority in such 
passages as this, coupled with a rejection of reason 
as regulating human duty, could not but make a most 
painful impression on the mind of Owen ; and when 
he saw that the other London partners countenanced 
Allen's proceedings, the necessity of parting must 
have been as obvious to his mind as to that of the 
London Quaker. The two previous dissolutions of 
partnership in connection with the treatment of the 
people at New Lanark, leave no doubt of Robert 
Owen's thorough earnestness, and his determination 
to make the happiness of the workers' lives an im- 
portant part of his duty. This to him was a supreme 
obligation, and he frequently states his reasons for so 
considering it. With him to think a truth was to act 
it, leaving the mere talk to others. His Lanark ex- 
periment was an attempt to carry into practice what 
he felt to be a pressing necessity, not only in the 
interest of Great Britain, but in the interest of the 
masses of the people in every part of the world. He 
had in early life adopted the idea, that a greatly 
improved state of existence in connection with the 
manufactures of the country was realisable; and when 
the opportunity offered he realised it, not without labour 
and sacrifice. The merest conception of the misery 
produced by our factory system in other parts of the 
country, compared with the state of things created by 

Driven Out. 12 1 

him in New Lanark, is the best proof that he was a 
practical as well as benevolent man, who knew how to 
carry out, on the spot where he stood, the work which 
he believed to be practical, and necessary for the well- 
being of his fellow-creatures. 


2)rtven ®ut 

Owen was not a dreamer, nor was he given to crude 
experimenting, as is constantly alleged. The manner 
in which he struggled for education for the young, 
and the principles he asserted as the necessar\' basis 
of all instruction, when taken in connection with the 
class he had to deal with, show him to have been 
in this field of human duty a man of exceptional 
intelligence, benevolence, and perseverance, ready to 
give reasons for what he did, and realising, if not his 
highest ideal, large and satisfactory results in proof of 
the soundness of his theories. 

He insisted on the general truth, that the infant 
from its birth might be trained to good, or so mis- 
managed or neglected as to give the worst intellectual 
and moral results. In proof of this last assertion, he 
adduced facts which were apparent to all save those 
who were blind to them through self-interest. He 
had rigorously shut out from his mind the then 
common belief, that boys and girls belonging to the 
working classes should be educated solely with a 
view to fitting them for the ordinary tasks they were 

122 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

to perform in after-life; that they should be made 
imperfect tools, available for the convenience or profit 
of others, without any knowledge as to the higher 
aspects or nobler duties of human life ; to do with 
docility the work of the shoemaker, the tailor, the 
spinner, or the weaver, without a single aspiration 
in connection with a manhood or womanhood, that 
was but too frequently either partially or wholly 
obliterated by this unjust and shortsighted pro- 

His aim was to show in the carrying out of the 
system he adopted at New Lanark, that education 
added to the value of the workman ; whereas a child 
brought up in ignorance, it may be by bad example 
habituated to crime, was a burden to itself, and a 
serious obstruction to the happiness of the general 
community; and, beyond this, the cause of an 
enormous outlay for criminal correction and punish- 
ment, to say nothing of a huge pauper system that 
called, without ever ceasing, for the expenditure of 
annual millions of money. On the face of it, the 
losses by educational neglect were heavier than the 
cost of a sound system of education could be, 
especially if the more indirect and less immediate 
losses of neglect and bad example were taken into 
account. Throughout his published writings and his 
spoken addresses these ideas were continually put 
forth and insisted on, with a view to the promotion of 
educational effort in the country, that every human 
creature brought into existence might be so treated 
from infancy as to become in after-life an addition 
to the happiness instead of to the misery of the 

Driven Out, 123 

Owen regarded as a duty not only to utilise the 
best means of education, but also to remove injurious 
example, and to prevent evil association. He ex- 
claimed against the useless, and as he regarded it 
the vindictive, punishment of the rod, the prison, the 
transport colony, the gallows. Though he had his 
own special ideas in regard to education, and to the 
manner in which it should be carried out, he hailed 
it apart from these as the great safeguard to 
national progress. No labour was too heavy for 
him to incur, no expense too great, no patience 
too prolonged ; and though the thoughtless and 
censorious spoke of him as a fanatic, a monomaniac, 
a man of one idea, and a disturber of society, 
such terms were, when applied to him, in the 
highest degree undeserved, seeing that in all he 
said and did he contemplated nothing beyond a 
peaceful and equitable adjustment of every human 

One set of unfriendly critics cry out that a man 
who sets his heart on one great general purpose, how- 
ever varied and numerous the objects it may include, 
is narrow and blind ; whilst another set is, at the same 
moment, charging him with presumption, because, as 
they say, he imagines himself capable of knowing 
how to cure the full sum total of the world's ills. 
Owen could not justly be placed in either class ; 
though Bastiat classes him with those who say, "From 
the days of Adam to our time the human race have 
been upon a wrong course, and, if only a little con- 
fidence is placed in me, I shall soon bring them back 
to the right way." 

In any project that may be mooted in regard to 

124 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Ozven. 

education, or any branch of social and industrial 
reform, Owen, or any other projector, may be mis- 
taken in what he recommends ; but when Bastiat 
sets up millions of men against individuals as 
proof by numbers that a new proposition must be 
wrong, or assumes the absurdity of a too compre- 
hensive purpose, he forgets that in the beginning 
nearly every plan of reform appears altogether 
inadequate to the object in view, but that every 
day is a day of change during which the new is 
substituted for the old. Alteration at some point is 
always going on, and is, when wisely made, the great 
moving power of the world, moderating the hostilities 
and antagonisms of men, and reconciling their interests 
in a spirit of equity and peace. 

When Owen decided to leave New Lanark, he felt 
the necessity of obtaining, if possible, so much con- 
viction in the public mind as to the necessfty for 
popular education as would neutralise the mischievous 
bigotry by which his own efforts were foiled. At that 
time what we now call public opinion was not a 
recognised force in influencing the action of the State. 
There was a public opinion belonging to certain great 
families, and to the wealthy and influential classes, to 
which our rival political parties attended. But that 
general intelligence among the masses of the popula- 
tion, — that unity of thought and general acceptance of 
common ideas diffused by popular newspapers, and 
hardened into conviction by the discussions of the 
factory and workshop, was then almost non-existent. 
Men with special ideas, like those entertained by 
Owen, felt how little could be done once it was 
clearly understood that the general improvement of 

Driven Out, 125 

the working classes was intended, especially when 
this improvennent included the abolition of prejudices 
clung to by those who are called the respectable 
classes, as necessary to the maintenance of religious 
belief, and to that respect for property which was 
regarded as even more important. 

The great wars arising out of the French Revolution 
had not long been closed. The suppression of thought 
and prevention of combined action on the part of the 
masses were so vigorously carried out during that 
time, that it left the people without habits of thought- 
fulness on public matters, and, as a consequence, 
without the discipline or the power of acting together, 
except secretly and as conspirators. After the war, 
distress was deeply felt, through the cessation of an 
extensive war demand, and the sudden influx of a 
discharged soldiery into the fields of industrial 

At this period, also, a new difficulty made itself 
felt. An enlarged application of machinery for pro- 
ductive purposes had been going on for some time, 
and for several years after the close of the war was 
displacing hand labour, thus causing distress, before 
it had opened up for the increased production 
outlets that ultimately called into activity the super- 
abundant labour of the country. Machine breaking 
became common in several of the manufacturing dis- 
tricts, and a widespread fear of the working classes 
was extensively and deeply felt. The Government 
contributed its share to the public dread of thought, 
speech, and action on the part of the people, by 
suppressing associations, of whatever character, by 
the operation of the combination laws. There was 

126 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

a fear of popular tumults on one side, suffering 
and dissatisfaction on the other, and little or no 
opportunity of saying a word or suggesting a plan 
of action, with a view to any thoughtful proposal or 
method of reforrxi that might calm men's passions, 
restore their confidence in each other, and reconcile 
their interests on grounds of mutual advantage. 

The position of Robert Owen was, in this state of 
things, a very difficult one. There was no common 
thought upon which the different classes of the com- 
munity could be brought together, no generally enter- 
tained hope that could bind them one to another for 
common action, and hence Owen had to set to work 
in the best way open to him. He saw and explained 
to his brother manufacturers, and to the propertied 
classes, the dangers by which they were surrounded ; 
pointed the way out of these, and worked hard that 
the practicability of his plans might be understood. 
He thus drew round him a large number of influential 
people, that, by an influence extending downwards, 
public opinion might be widened, until the masses of 
the working people were drawn into a great national 
movement. Unfortunately, the greater number of 
those above the workers, with the great middle class 
as a centre, suspected and hated popular movements; 
and the crude state of public opinion at this time, 
combined with the suffering among the workers, 
would most likely have rendered dangerous any 
great popular movement. 

Owen felt this so strongly, that, from the first, 
wherever his voice was heard, one of his most 
frequent and impressive lessons was, that whatever 
wrong or suffering existed amongst the people was 

Driven Out, 127 

due to a defective system of society for which no 
individual was to blame, and not to the personal action 
of particular men ; that, therefore, wise thought and 
judicious action, not anger, were absolutely necessary 
before the evils of society could be remedied ; that 
the violent appropriation of what belonged to others 
would only be the substitution of one wrong for 
another, and that this meant a ceaseless anarchy, that 
carried in it no germ of promise, no solid foundation 
of hope. 

Nothing was more easy than to misrepresent his 
teaching, by distorting the reforms at which he aimed, 
and falsifying the means proposed by him. His 
opponents represented him as a revolutionist ; but of 
all those who laboured to accomplish needful changes, 
there were none who regarded with more horror 
anger and violence as the means of attaining even the 
best objects; for the reason, that he was convinced that 
movements begun in such a spirit were animated 
neither by the thought nor temper to propose the 
best remedies, or to pursue the best methods, for the 
accomplishment of good ends. 

It was in this spirit he worked at New Lanark, so 
long as he was permitted to do so ; and when he was 
interfered with and forced to retire, he determined 
to appeal to public opinion, that he might, by the 
support derived from it, demonstrate how much 
could be done for the improvement of the masses of 
the people. Nine years before he quitted New 
Lanark the Duke of Kent referred to the position 
of Owen, at a meeting held to investigate and report 
on his proposals. On 26th June 18 19, His Royal 
Highness said : — "Conjectural reports respecting Mr 

128 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

Owen's religious opinions have been much abroad ; 
but it appears from the testimony of the same parties, 
and indeed of all who have visited New Lanark, that 
it has been Mr Owen's uniform practice through life 
to give every facility to the free performance of 
religious duties ; but he has always inculcated the 
superior advantages which arise from introducing into 
the everyday practice of each individual of every per- 
suasion the genuine spirit of charity, and this recom- 
mendation is now actively operative in the conduct of 
the members of each sect to the others. In conse- 
quence of this wise proceeding, religious animosity 
does not exist, while every benevolent feeling vcsir^ 
abounds, and a cordial harmony, not known in a> .^, 
other situation in which there is a variety of religious 
persuasions, is seen to prevail in this little colony. 
If I understand Mr Owen's principles, they lead them 
not to interfere to the injury of any sect ; but he 
claims for himself that which he is so desirous to 
obtain for his fellow-creatures, — religious liberty and 
freedom of conscience ; and this he contends for, 
because his experience compels him to conclude that 
these principles are now necessary to secure the well- 
being and good order of society. There may be those 
who differ from him on this single point, but this will 
form no reason why we should not derive advantage 
from a life spent in unremitting exertions to prove 
experimentally what measures can really benefit the 
poor, who, we all acknowledge, stand in need of some 
substantial relief" 

Extracts on this point have been perhaps unduly 
multiplied. Owen saw how religious opinions, all over 
the world, in a multitude of well-defined forms, kept 

Factory Labour, — Reform. 1 29 

men apart who might otherwise have joined in good 
work. Belief, in its narrowest conceptions and most 
exclusive spirit, had divided men, and he, by pointing 
out how much unreasoning bigotry was due to early 
inculcation, strove to get this important truth so far 
acknowledged as to make charity the animating spirit 
in all faith. Very possibly his zeal was animated 
by what he had himself to endure, from the annoying 
antagonism of a man belonging to one of the 
smallest sects to be found in connection with any 
of the great faiths of the world, — a sect too, that, 
whilst conspicuous for its honesty and' good works* 
^'^d been sorely persecuted by the sincere bigots of 
J more orthodox creeds. The trial Owen had to go 
through in abandoning an experiment on the success 
of which he had set his heart, must have been very 
severe ; and he left New Lanark amid the deep 
regret of those on whose behalf he had so long and so 
generously laboured. 


JFactori? Xabour^-IReform* 

When Robert Owen left New Lanark he was fifty- 
seven years old. In such a work he had needed 
sympathy and help, and found little else than opposi- 
tion. Some of his partners had objects of their own 
to pursue, and gave little time to an understanding of 
the true facts of his situation ; and no doubt Mr 
Allen, living near them, contrived to instil into their 
minds a portion of his own distrust. Jeremy Bentham 


130 Life, Times, ajid Labotirs of Robert Owen. 

could not be influenced by any unworthy prejudice, 
but he was always busy in the work to which he had 
devoted his long life, and could afford little time 
to disputes which, however important in regard to 
the condition of the New Lanark people and their 
children, were, apart from the studious working out 
of his own ideas, away from the strivings and con- 
tentions of the world. 

It is true that Owen made the New Lanark concern 
pay well. According to the report of Bentham's 
friends, it was the only one of his speculative ventures 
that did pay. There was alarm on another head, 
however, and it is just possible that men living so far 
away from the spot where the practical operations of 
the co-partnery were carried on, might have regarded 
Owen's proceedings as involving risks they were not 
disposed to run. It must be remembered too that 
at the time of the dissolution the Limited Liability 
Act had no existence. To teach the young was not 
his only determination. He had so strongly resolved 
that the system of factory labour, which was destroy- 
ing the health, the happiness, and the moral worth of 
the people connected with it,, and thus prospectively 
working the nation's ruin, should be altered. In a 
great manufacturing system, including the operations 
of many hundred employers, it is very difficult for 
one, or for a small number, to set an example of 
improvement. Equal conditions of economy in work- 
ing are almost necessary amongst manufacturing rivals 
competing in the same markets. The few in such 
cases cannot safely take on themselves charges which 
the many refuse to incur. Owen had, therefore, to 
feel his way — to count the cost of such changes as he 

Factory Labour, — Reform, 1 3 1 

might make, and only to act where what he proposed 
to do did not threaten danger to his success as a 
manufacturer. He was associated with partners from 
first to last, and therefore he had to succeed in re- 
alising a satisfactory profit, and only when this was 
successfully accomplished could he use a portion of 
the overplus in improving the condition of those by 
whose labour it had been created. 

His two first dissolutions of partnership were not 
connected with business losses. On the contrary, the 
business profits were large, — so large, in fact, that their 
amount was what induced his partners to exclude the 
workers from any share in their apportionment. Owen's 
success as a business man was one of his principal 
drawbacks, as realising large profits for dividend on 
share capital created a disinclination in the partners 
to decrease these dividends, by incurring expenses on 
behalf of the workers which were not included in the 
charges of ordinary factory management. As has been 
stated, the separation from the last set of partners had 
quite a different cause. But whatever the disposition 
of his partners, or whatever the motives through which 
they acted, his mind was made up to one course, to 
insist on the education of all the young under his 
control, and to work the establishment on such condi- 
tions as included the welfare of everybody connected 
with it. 

The first of his public acts of which we have any 
record had reference to this latter point. His paper 
read before a committee of management of the 
Board of the Cotton Trade, at Glasgow in 1803, is a 
remarkable document, both in regard to its general 
statements and the arguments it contains in connec- 

132 Life, Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

tion with the national importance of the cotton trade 
to Great Britain, and the danger of treating such a 
trade in the way in which British statesmen at that 
early date were treating it. '* For a number of years/' 
says M'Culloch, "previously to 1831, the only duty 
on foreign cotton amounted to 6 per cent, ad valorem; 
but in order to make up, in part at least, for the loss 
of revenue caused by the repeal of the duty on printed 
cottons, it was raised in that year to Ss. lod. per cwt. 
Such a duty would have materially affected the 
imports of the inferior species of cotton and the price 
of coarse goods, and being, of course, justly objected 
to, it was reduced in 1833 to 2s. i id. per cwt.*' 

In 1803, at the meeting mentioned, Owen presented 
his memorial, which was ordered to be printed and 
circulated for the " information of the world at large." 
It was prepared and published twelve years before the 
corn laws were enacted, — when the Government, as 
Mr Dunckley says, " seized on every article which, by 
any stretch of possibility, an Englishman could want," 
when "considerably more than a thousand different 
kinds of foreign produce were prohibited from enrich- 
ing us unless they purchased that privilege at the 
custom-house." The class to which Owen's paper was 
addressed was in favour of duty-free cotton, because 
its members were personally interested. Robert Owen, 
however, thinking of the interests of the nation, sought 
to enforce principles applicable to all trades; while his 
brother manufacturers, though deprecating the duty 
on cotton, were against a free export of machinery, 
and opposed the emigration of men skilled in its 

I shall give here the principal part of this document. 

Factory Labour, — Reform, 133 

as, independent of everything else, it contains figures 
and arguments of permanent value. <^- 

" In the year 1765, cotton as an article of commerce 
was scarcely known in this country. A few years 
afterwards Mr Arkwright obtained his patent for 
working cotton by machinery. In 1782 the whole 
produce of the cotton manufacturer did not exceed 
;£'2,ooo,ooo sterling. In 1801 the import of cotton 
wool into Great Britain was ;£^42, 000,000, and the esti- 
mated value of the cotton manufactures ;£"! 5,000,000 
sterling ; such was the rapid increase of this trade to 
the end of the year 1801. From authentic documents 
it appears that the import of this article in 1802 has 
not been less than ;£'54,ooo,ooo, and the increase in 
the value of the manufacture has been corresponding. 
The following particulars of the trade, it is presumed, 
will be found accurate. The raw material, when 
delivered on board the merchant ships, now costs 
about ;£'4,ooo,ooo sterling. Upwards of 30,000 tons 
of shipping, and 2,000 seamen, are employed in 
bringing the cotton wool to this country, and in 
exporting the goods manufactured from it. 

" To work the wool into thread requires a capital in 
buildings and machinery to the amount of ;£'9,22 5,000; 
and those buildings and machinery are chiefly com- 
posed of bricks, slates, glass, timber, lead, iron, copper, 
tin, and leather, — from most of which, in one shape or 
other, a considerable duty is collected for the support 
of the State. 

"This trade gives employment or support to up- 
wards of 800,000 individuals, and the annual return of 
the manufacture is nearly as follows : — 

134 Lif^^ Titnes, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

Cost of cotton in the countries where it grows, 
insurance, freight, other shipping charges, and 
merchants* freight ;£4,72 5,000 

The interest at 5 per cent, upon the capital of 
;£9,22 5,000 sunk in buildings and machinery, 
with 10 per cent, for wear and tear of ditto.... 1,383,750 

Wages of spinning, value of material consumed in 
the process of spinning the cotton into thread, 
and spinners' profit 5,100,000 

Value of materials consumed in subsequent manu- 
factures, manufacturing wages, interest of 
capital, and profit 9,000,000 


Of which sum at least ;£^I3,000,CXX) sterling are paid 
in wages to the natives of Great Britain. 

" The above calculations, both with respect to the 
money and the people employed, are considerably 
underrated, that no room might be left for any species 
of exaggeration ; and it should be noticed, that a 
great proportion of the materials employed, such as 
ashes, soap, candles, leather, oil, dye-stuffs, &c., pay 
very considerable sums as duties to the Government. 

" But the importance of this manufacture will be 
more justly appreciated, when we consider that the 
;£"! 3,000,000 paid for manual labour in this trade are 
annually expended in purchasing the produce of land, 
and also in buying other articles of necessity, which, 
by excise duties or other taxes, contribute in a very 
great degree to put the finances of Great Britain in 
a situation infinitely superior to any other nation in 

" From this cause also, more than from any other, 
has proceeded the late, otherwise astonishing, increase 
in the value of landed property, and in the revenues 

Factory Labour. — Reform. ' 135 

of this country ; and should this branch of our manu- 
facture be injured or lost, it may be confidently 
predicted, that both land and revenue would suffer by 
its decline in the same proportion that they had been 
benefited by its success. 

"It therefore becomes the duty of those imme- 
diately interested in the cotton business, as well as of 
every well-wisher to the landed property, revenues, 
and general prosperity of the empire, to inquire what 
influence the Act of Parliament passed last session, 
laying certain duties upon the importation of cotton 
wool into Great Britain, may have upon this most im- 
portant source of our wealth, industry, and prosperity. 

• •••«• 

" Independent of the universally acknowledged 
impolicy of imposing a duty on the importation of 
raw material, which is afterwards to go through a 
multiplied and highly valuable manufacture, and 
without considering the essential injury which this 
country will sustain by being prevented from becom- 
ing the emporium in Europe of cotton wool, can it 
be supposed that, under the circumstances before 
mentioned, a commercial nation, so well informed of 
her interest as Great Britain is, should impose a duty 
on a raw material upon which her prosperity now so 
greatly depends, and which operates as a bounty to 
the same amount to the foreign manufacturer, who is 
afterwards to meet in competition with the British 
merchant for the sale of goods manufactured from 
this material ? 

" On many qualities of this raw material the duty 
amounts to from 10 to 20 per cent, on the first cost of 

1 36 Life^ Times ^ ana Labours of Robert Oiven. 

"To prove that this duty is not of small considera- 
tion to the trade, it is only necessary to mention that 
some houses, in an f.arly stage of the manufacture, 
pay each, in part of it, upwards of £6,000 per annum. 
Is this to be considered but a trifling inducement to a 
foreign manufacturer to establish works of an equal 
extent in situations where the raw material can be 
imported free of duty; and, with such encouragement 
held out to strangers, will Acts of Parliament pre- 
vent our artisans from being enticed abroad, and our 
machinery from being smuggled out of the kingdom ? 

" But there is another circumstance relative to the 
cotton trade which calls for the most serious consider- 
ation of the Legislature of this country, which is, that 
duties may be levied, and restrictions laid, upon it 
without the evil effects of these being immediately 
discovered, because whatever encouragement may be 
given to the foreign manufacturer by restrictions and 
duties imposed upon the trade in this country, it will 
require time for him to erect his buildings, construct his 
machinery, and initiate his workpeople in the operative 
parts of the manufacture; but when these are completed, 
and the produce of them brought to market, the impolicy 
of these duties and restrictions will be obvious when too 
late ; and then neither the repeal of them, nor even 
bounties given for the importation of cotton wool, will 
repair the loss which must be sustained, first by the 
British manufacturer, and afterwards, in a far more 
extensive and serious degree, by the British nation.'* 

At the time when this paper was issued, there was 
no disposition, on the part of the men in power, to 
take note of the admonitions it contained, and for 
several years longer the cotton duty was not much 

Factory Labour. — Reform. 137 

thought of. Owen could do nothing as an individual 
in connection with such a question, as when legisla- 
tion requires to be forced, especially in regard to the 
abrogation of taxation, such action as individual men 
can take counts for little. Under these circumstances, 
he confined himself chiefly to making such improve- 
ments among the population of New Lanark as 
would enable him to judge of what might be ventured 
on, or recommended as ameliorative legislation for the 
workers. From 1803 to 181 5 the factory system had 
gone on developing. The legislation of 1802 (Peel's 
Act) did little or nothing, as already pointed out. 
The apprentice system had died a natural death, — 
the pauper children were no longer needed. The 
population had been taken possession of, body 
and soul. Among the general mass of the factory 
population the idea of the family was rapidly dis- 
appearing. Parents trafficked in the lives of their 
children, whom they neglected in education, morals, 
and health. In return, the children neglected the 
parents when their turn to need help came ; what 
they earned they required for self-indulgence ; and in 
this way, wherever the factory system prevailed, the 
old virtues of English family life disappeared, and in 
their place came individual selfishness, indiscriminate 
vice, and the debility caused by premature and ex- 
cessive work. 

138 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 


jfactoti? IRetorm* 

Volumes might be filled with illustrations of the 
foregoing general statement on the condition of the 
factory population. There was another danger in 
addition to this, which forced on the minds of 
thoughtful men of every class the gravest considera- 
tions and questionings as to the evil condition of the 
nation socially and industrially. 

In 181 1 the Ludd riots, as they were called, began 
to assume serious shape. The Luddites entered on a 
crusade against machinery. Their operations, com- 
menced in Nottingham, were carried on extensively 
in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lancashire, Cheshire, 
and Yorkshire ; and though these were the principal 
centres, the riots extended to every part of the 
kingdom where machinery was making inroads on 
the industry of the people, and, as they phrased it, 
"eating their bread." Bodies of men attacked at 
night places where machinery was employed, and 
the outrages committed were often of a serious char- 
acter. When they were suppressed, the discontent 
that bred them still remained ; everywhere, throughout 
the manufacturing districts, the people were ready 
for riot when any kind of unusual excitement 

Up to 1815 little was done to press on Parliament 
the repeal of duty on raw cotton. During this time 
Owen had applied himself to the discovery of methods 
which would combine a just and considerate treat- 

Factory Reform. 1 39 

ment of the workpeople with the requisite profit on 
capital, to the introduction, in fact, of a plan which 
would unite the two interests — labour and capital — 
which, as embodied in our great and rapidly-growing 
factory system, were separated and antagonistic. In 
his management of the New Lanark mills he suc- 
ceeded so well in his undertaking, that when his 
partners forced a dissolution under the fear that, by 
his expenditure on the people, he might injure their 
interests, it was found that, after paying " 5 per cent, 
on the capital employed, the net profit was i!^ 160,000, 
and this was on the working of four years only, being 
£/\o,ooo a year. 

In 1815, after an interval of twelve years, Robert 
Owen became again publicly active. What at the 
opening of the century were prophecies as to the evil 
effects of the factory system as then worked had 
become facts. Men had no longer to speculate as to 
what might be the result of such a system in future 
years, it was now under their eyes in all its hideous- 
ness. Domestic life had as nearly as possible dis- 
appeared. Gaskell* says the workpeople had to rise 
between four and five all the year round ; that, still 
weary from the previous long day*s work, old and young 
hurried to the mill, with or without food. At eight 
o'clock, half-an-hour, and in some cases forty minutes, 
was allowed for breakfast. The engine frequently 
worked on, so that the meal had to be eaten and the 
work overlooked at the same time. Breakfast, which 
was brought to the mill, usually consisted of weak tea, 

* " The Manufacturing Population in England," by P. Gaskell. 
Baldin & Cradock, 1833. 

140 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

nearly cold, with bread, or milk and meal porridge, 
sometimes a little gin or other stimulant. When the 
hands lived near the mill they went home to break- 
fast, but this was not the rule. After this there was 
nothing but the continued never-ceasing grind of 
the machinery, without one minute^s interruption, till 
twelve o'clock. The mill then stopped till one, and 
the hands rushed home to snatch their dinner, which, 
says Gaskell, consisted of boiled potatoes, very often 
eaten alone, and sometimes with a portion of animal 
food, this latter being only found at the tables of the 
more provident. If the houses, as was commonly the 
case, were some little distance from the factory, much 
of the hour was consumed in going and coming. An 
old woman in the neighbourhood of the home usually 
cooked, in the worst way, such food as the family 
devoured in a kind of scramble, and as soon as this 
was over the family again dispersed each to his or her 
work, — no rest, no pause ; a hurry from work, a 
voracious rapidity at the meal, a hurry back to the 
straps and wheels, and cranks and pulleys, and 
cotton dust. From one o'clock till eight or nine, the 
wearying labour of the mill went on without ceasing, 
with the exception of twenty minutes allowed usually 
at four o'clock for tea, or " bagging " as it was called ; 
and thus for old and young, from year's end to year's 
end, the terrible grind went on. The rooms they 
worked in were crowded ; there was no rest, little 
attention to cleanliness ; the atmosphere necessarily 
overheated ; whilst the food taken to the mill was 
frequently covered with cotton flue, — the result of all 
being, deformity, ignorance, premature death, and 
much else, that made the factory system of England 

Factory Reform. 141 

for many years the worst curse by which the people 
of this country were ever afflicted. 

Nor can it be said that the evil was confined to the 
workers ; the sons of the manufacturers were ignorant, 
and to a great extent vicious, their habits and amuse- 
ments differing from those of the workers chiefly in 
their expensiveness. There were, no doubt, here and 
there groups of educated and studious people, resemb- 
ling those of whom Coleridge spoke when he visited 
Manchester with a view to the establishment of his 
paper ; but such glimpses as were to be had into the 
life of a middle class, suddenly become wealthy and 
luxurious, though they did not impeach the com- 
parative purity of middle class family life, leave no 
doubt as to the general character of the men who 
at that period were the owners and directors of the 
factories and warehouses. 

The nobler thoughts in connection with human life, 
its duties and responsibilities, were not likely to take 
root and flourish in a soil so saturated with greed and 
selfishness. To make money was the one great object 
of existence, and no class of men ever succeeded better 
in carrying out this master-thought than the factory 
owners of the cotton districts. Except in rare individual 
instances they did nothing to prevent the degradation 
of the people whose fate was at that time in their 
hands. For many years this bad state of things has 
been altering for the better. Much of the public 
work of Manchester and its neighbourhood has been 
of a generous and noble kind, whilst her people, 
struggling out of the slough into which they were cast, 
are moving forward ; but the time and the opportunity 
were lost when the great cotton industry began its 

1 42 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

giant growth, and hence recent efforts, whatever they 
may amount to, are but the bringing up of an arrear 
of duty, the accumulation of which an earlier thought- 
fulness would have prevented. 

The reforms effected by Owen at New Lanark were 
frequently brought under the notice of the public, the 
works being open to the inspection of all who thought 
proper to visit them. His address to his brother 
manufacturers, already quoted, shows how anxious he 
was that they also should endeavour to make their 
profits as manufacturers compatible with the welfare 
of their people. His name was well known as that of 
the leading spinner of fine cotton, and as such the 
various mills of the country were open to him. " I 
visited most of them," he says, " from north to south, 
to enable me to form a correct judgment of the 
condition of the children and workpeople employed 
in them. I thus saw the importance of the machinery 
employed in these manufactories, and its rapid annual 
improvements ; I also became vividly alive to the 
deteriorating condition of the young children and 
others who were made the slaves of these new 
mechanical powers." To this statement he adds an 
opinion, that the condition of the house slave which 
he afterwards saw in the West Indies and in the 
United States, was better than what he had wit- 
nessed amongst the factory workers of Great Britain, 
especially in food and clothing. 

In the early part of 1815 Owen decided on making 
a public attempt to call the attention of the manu- 
facturers to the condition of the cotton trade and the 
people employed in it. At his request a meeting was 
called in the Tontine, Glasgow, "to consider the 

Factory Reform. 143 

policy of asking the Government to remit the heavy 
duty on raw cotton, and to consider measures for 
improving the condition of the children and others 
employed in connection with the various textile 
manufactures." This meeting was presided over by 
the Lord Provost, and was attended by the leading 
manufacturers of the district. The propositions read 
to the meeting on these two subjects were differently 
received. The first, asking for a remission of the tax, 
was enthusiastically accepted; whilst the second, ask- 
ing for the relief of those employed, did not even find 
a seconder. When this occurred, Owen declined to 
proceed any further in the business of the meeting. 
Driven back thus, by the disinclination of the factory 
owners to look beyond their own selfish and im- 
mediate interest, he determined to go to work in a 
different way. He sent a copy of the address he had 
read at the meeting, to the Lord Provost of Glasgow 
as chairman, to the members of the Government, 
also a copy to each member of both Houses of 
Parliament, and in addition procured its publication 
in the London and provincial newspapers. 

An extract or two may convey some indication of 
the importance of this address: — "Hitherto, in con- 
sequence of the conflict of contending nations for 
their political existence, we have had no competitors 
in this manufacture that could materially retard its 
progress. But this conflict is now terminated ; peace 
pervades the continent of Europe ; and, I trust, ere 
long we shall receive intelligence of the ratification of 
peace between the British empire and America. We 
must, however, now prepare for a new rivalry, a 
rivalry in arts and manufactures ; and, as the political 

144 -^(/^» Times ^ mid Labours of Robert Oiven. 

importance of the cotton trade is already duly 
appreciated in every State in Europe, from seeing 
and feeling the effects of the wealth and power which 
it has created in this country, we may rest assured 
that all means will be used by those States to partici- 
pate in its advantages, and that each Government will 
willingly render its subjects every assistance to pro- 
cure some share of its benefits." He then recounts 
the many advantages of the cotton trade in connec- 
tion with the industry and wealth to be gained by it, 
and takes into consideration the objections that have 
been urged against it. "These lamentable results, 
however," he remarks, " can be known only by experi- 
ence, and now that the experience is acquired, it is 
too late to retrace our steps. Were we inclined, we 
cannot now return to our former state, for, without 
the cotton trade, our increased population cannot be 
supported, the interest of our national debt paid, 
nor the expenses of our fleets and armies defrayed. 
Our existence as an independent power now, I regret 
to say, depends on the continuance of this trade, 
because no other can be substituted in its place. 
True indeed it is, that the main pillar and prop of 
the political greatness and prosperity of our country 
is a manufacture which, as it is now carried on, is 
destructive of the health, morals, and social comforts 
of the mass of the people engaged in it." 

But he asks, "Cannot these evils be remedied ? " and 
to this question gives the following reply : — " I know 
there are those who have not thought on the subject, 
and others who, if they are well off themselves, care 
little about the sufferings of those around them. To 
these, if there are any such present, I do not now 

Factory Reform. 14S 

address myself. I wish rather to fix the attention of 
those who can look beyond the passing hour, who can 
accurately trace future consequences from existing 
causes, — those who feel an extended interest in the 
welfare of their species, who have discovered that 
wealth is not happiness, and that an apparent great- 
ness, founded on the miseries of the people, is not 
permanent and substantial power." "It is only," he 
continues, " since the introduction of the cotton trade 
that children at an age before they had acquired 
strength or mental instruction have been forced into 
cotton mills, those receptacles, in too many instances, 
for living human skeletons, almost disrobed of 
intellect, where, as the business is often now con- 
ducted, they linger out a few years of miserable 
existence, acquiring every bad habit, which they dis- 
seminate throughout society. It is only since the 
introduction of this trade, that children, and even 
grown people, were required to labour more than 
twelve hours in the day, not including the time 
allotted for meals. It is only since the introduction 
of this trade, that the sole recreation of the labourer 
is to be found in the pothouse or ginshop. It is only 
since the introduction of this baneful trade, that 
poverty, crime, and misery have made rapid and 
fearful strides throughout the community." 

The following earnest and humane appeal is 
addressed to his brother manufacturers : — " Shall we, 
then, go unblushingly and ask the legislators of our 
country to pass legislative acts to sanction and 
increase this trade, — to sign the death-warrants of the 
strength, morals, and happiness of thousands of our 
fellow-creatures, — and not attempt to propose correctives 


146 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

for the evils which it creates ? If such shall be your 
determination, I, for one, will not join in the applica- 
tion ; nay, I will, with all the faculties I possess, 
oppose every attempt to extend a trade that, except 
in name, is more injurious to those employed in it 
than is the slavery in the West Indies to the poor 
negroes. For deeply as I am interested in the cotton 
manufacture, highly as I value the extended political 
power of my country, yet knowing as I do, from 
long experience both here and in England, the 
miseries which this trade as it is now conducted 
inflicts on those to whom it gives employment, I do 
not hesitate to say, Perish the cotton trade ! perish 
even the political superiority of our country ! — if it 
depends on the cotton trade — rather than they shall 
be upheld by the sacrifice of everything valuable in 


^Factors Bill StruQQle. 

As soon as Robert Owen had given a wide publicity 
to the address referred to in the last chapter, he 
proceeded to London to consult with the Government 
as to whether any steps could be at once taken to 
rescue the factory workers from the suffering and 
degradation of their position. He had stated to the 
Glasgow meeting that there were certain points that 
ought to be insisted on in the interest of those 
engaged in the factories. First, " To prevent children 
from being employed in cotton or other mills of 

Factory Bill Struggle, 147 

machinery until they are twelve years old." At that 
time they were commonly put to work at seven, and 
not unfrequently at six years of age. Secondly, 
" That the hours of work in mills of machinery — 
including one hour and a half for meals and recrea- 
tion — shall not exceed twelve per day." The hours 
at that date were, for children as well as for adults, 
fourteen, and in many cases only one hour was 
allowed for meajs. Third, "That, after a period to 
be fixed, no child should be received in a mill of 
machinery until he shall have been taught to read, 
to write a legible hand, and to understand the first 
four rules of arithmetic ; and the girls, in addition, 
to be taught to sew their common articles of clothing." 
These heads he had put into the form of a Bill, 
defining the meaning, and method of carrying them 
out ; but he altered the age at which children were to 
be admitted to work in the factories to ten years, in 
the conviction, no doubt, that insisting on twelve 
would increase the difficulties his proposals would 
have to encounter. He also altered the hours from 
twelve to twelve and a half; the extra half hour 
was, however, to be devoted to instruction, leaving 
ten and a half hours as the time of working, as 
originally proposed. The Bill provided also for in- 
spection on a more efficient plan than had hitherto 
existed. The inspectors were to have considerable 
power ; and to make their action more effective it 
was provided, "That if any person or persons shall 
oppose or molest any of the said visitors in the 
execution of the powers entrusted to them by this 
Act, every such person or persons shall for every 
such offence forfeit and pay any sum not exceeding 

148 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

ten pounds nor less than five pounds." In addition, 
it was provided that offences against the provisions 
of the Act should be punished by a like fine, one 
half of which was to be paid to the informer, thus 
giving the "hands" an opportunity of defending 
themselves against breaches of the law. 

This may be considered the first real attempt, in 
connection with our new manufacturing system, to 
force the duty of inspection and control upon the 
Government of the country, for the purpose of pro- 
tecting the worker against injurious action on the 
part of the employer. The principle of Government 
interference was then strongly opposed, and the 
opposition was carried on by persons who were 
powerful in the State compared with those for whose 
protection such legislation was sought. A great 
revolution was going forward in regard to the in- 
dustry of the country, and the question was, whether 
the nation, represented by the State, had a right to 
check by law the growth of evils which, if left 
unchecked, might produce the worst calamities ? A 
crowd left to act without any true sense of collective 
duty, is not likely to correct what is wrong, or very 
effectually promote what is right. Nor should much 
attention be given to persons who undertake to speak 
authoritatively in regard to public duties which may 
be performed by men, as individuals, but which they 
assert cannot be done by them in their collective 
capacity. Sensible people will not deny to themselves 
the right to correct evils or promote benefits by joint 
action which they find difficult to correct or promote 
by individual action. Neither should great respect 
be paid to the habit of sustaining individual and 

Factory Bill Struggle. 149 

class interests by abstract arguments, — to denouncing 
as unsound, in a politico-economic sense, reforms that, if 
carried, would result in great advantage to the public. 

It was forgotten by those who opposed the inter- 
ference of the State, that each case where the action of 
the State is called for, must be argued on its own merits 
as being practicable and useful to the community, 
and not in accordance with any abstract doctrine of 
State duty. There may be many things which it 
would be unwise for the State to touch ; but the people 
who would seek to abolish organised action for public 
purposes, and reduce each man to the necessity of 
attending to his own sewers, or carrying his own 
letters, are not likely to be listened to with patience ; 
and looking at the condition of our factory workers 
now, compared with what it was when Owen under- 
took his labours on thei^j* behalf, there are few sane 
men in the kingdom who, in deference to the most 
eloquent pleadings, would consent to undo what since 
then has been done on behalf of the working people. 

At that early date no movement had been made 
by the factory people themselves, — they were rapidly 
sinking to a condition too low for this. Nor were 
the working people outside the factories much better. 
The Combination Laws had prevented them from 
acting together in joint undertakings. They were as 
feeble as isolation and ignorance could make them, 
and hence the few men who undertook to fight their 
battle, had to struggle, without assistance from those 
they sought to serve, against an opposition formed by 
those who were united to preserve a power by which 
they were rapidly growing rich at the cost of the 
morals, the health, and the happiness of the workers. 

150 Life, Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

When Owen went to London in 181 5, there was 
no strong party behind him, there was no deeply-felt 
sympathy on the part of the people with him, though 
there were a few friends who stood firmly on his side. 
In London he was known to considerable numbers of 
influential people, many of whom had visited the 
New Lanark establishment, and had become much 
interested, not only in his educational labours, but 
also in the great improvements he had made in the 
mode of carrying on factory labour. On his arrival 
he had an interview with Mr Nicholas Vansittart 
(afterwards Lord Bexley), and obtained from him a 
favourable hearing on the cotton tax. The Govern- 
ment he also found favourable to the claims of the 
children for further protection; but as at this time the 
enormously increased wealth of the manufacturers 
had made them powerful, not only in the country but 
in the House of Commons, he felt that at every step 
the strongest opposition would have to be encountered. 

It was fortunate, however, that, with such a work to 
be done, his determination could not be abated by any 
kind of opposition. ** I waited personally," he says, 
"on the leading members of both Houses, and 
explained to them my object, which was to give some 
relief to a most deserving yet much oppressed part 
of our population. I was, in general, well received, 
and had much promise of support, especially from the 
leaders of the various sections into which parties were 
then divided." When in this way the leading men of 
all parties were prepared to consider the question, it 
was felt desirable that the Bill which he had taken to 
London with him should be introduced. 

A final meeting of the gentlemen who were co- 

Reform Bill Struggle. 1 5 1 

operating with him was called by himself and Lord 
Lascelles, afterwards Earl of Harewood. After some 
discussion, it was decided to ask Sir Robert Peel to 
take charge of the Bill in the House of Commons. 
He was an extensive manufacturer, had been active 
in procuring protection for the factory apprentices, 
stood well with the House and also with the Govern- 
ment, and, though up to that time he had taken no 
active steps in the new movement, he was believed to 
be friendly to the objects the promoters of the Bill 
had in view. Owen waited on Sir Robert, to ascertain 
his views on the subject, and procured his promise to 
introduce and support the measure in the House. 
He agreed to attend the next meeting of those 
favourable to the Bill, that the best mode of proceed- 
ing might be decided upon ; but Owen, who was not 
disposed to suspect on slight grounds, was persuaded 
that when he undertook this task his heart was not in 
it, in consequence, perhaps, of the length to which it 
was proposed to go in shortening the hours of labour. 
It was not suspected that he was not thoroughly 
honest in his intentions ; but the proposed measure 
was different in principle and wider in scope than the 
measure of 1802, and it is fair to assume that Sir 
Robert, as a manufacturer, was to some extent influ- 
enced by his brother manufacturers, who were greatly 
alarmed as to the probable effect of the Bill, and who 
had made their minds up to give it all the opposition 
in their power. 

It took four years to get the Bill through Parlia- 
ment, and then it was so mutilated that Owen felt it to 
be scarcely worth the trouble it had cost. It was con- 
fined in its operation to cotton mills, and altered the 

152 Life^ Times y and Labours of Robert Owen, 

ten years fixed as the time at which children should 
be admitted into factories to nine. It extended 
the ten and a half hours which were to constitute the 
day*s work to twelve, for young persons of from nine 
to sixteen years ; Owen having fixed the ages from 
ten to eighteen. There were many other alterations 
which, precluding a settlement of the question for a 
considerable period, opened the whole matter up as 
the subject of a contention, which, on the factory 
question alone, was continued for thirty years, and 
which when carried into the workshops may be said 
to have lasted for half a century. 

During these four weary years of parliamentary 
struggle, Owen always remained in London in the 
session. At page 116 of his slight autobiographical 
sketch he tells us his experience of our legislative 
assembly and its proceedings : — " At the commence- 
ment I was an utter novice in the manner of 
conducting the business of this country in Parlia- 
ment ; but my intimate acquaintance with these 
proceedings, for the four years during which this Bill 
was under the consideration of both Houses, opened 
my eyes to the conduct of public men, and to the 
ignorant vulgar self-interest, regardless of means to 
accomplish their object, of trading and mercantile 
men, even of high standing in the commercial world. 
No means were left untried by these men to defeat 
the object of the Bill in the first session of its intro- 
duction, and through four years in wfiich, under one 
futile pretence and another, it was kept in the House 
of Commons." 

Every clause of the Bill contained overwhelming 
proof of its necessity ; and knowing this, they sought 

Reform Bill Struggle, 153 

to damage Owen's facts and destroy his influence by 
personal attacks, and to this end sent a deputation 
into Scotland to seek for some flaw in the character 
of Owen himself. This very discreditable attempt 
was a signal failure. The minister of the parish 
church was taken to London, but returned having 
done nothing. The Bill was passed, after the delay 
mentioned, and in the condition already indicated ; 
and though Owen ceased to take much interest in it 
or its working, it completely altered the relations of 
employers and employed in the cotton factories of 
the country, and, in the end, over the whole field of 
the nation's industry. 

It has already been said that the Act of 1802 had 
reference only to apprentices, and did not raise the 
question as to the right or the duty of parliamentary 
interference with what was called free labour. The 
conditions of the indenture continued to exist, and 
the State by the Act of 1802 simply placed itself 
in the position of guardian to pauper children, which, 
though inconvenient to certain of the employers, could 
scarcely be regarded as an interference with any 
private right either of the parent or the employer. 
The Act of 1 8 19 was the assertion, however, of a 
distinct right on the part of the State to protect its 
citizens from the injurious consequences of their own 
acts, in one of the most important branches of the 
nation's industry; and therefore did actually open the 
door to all that has since followed in all our most 
important industries, and to such an extent that the 
doctrine of laissez faire, in regard to the factories, 
mines, and workshops of the country, is as dead as the 
doctrine of divine right 

154 ^tf^i Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

This was not overlooked by the opponents of the 
Bill. It was urged that " legislative interference 
between the free labourer and his employer is a 
violent, highly dangerous, and unconstitutional in- 
novation, and can be justified only upon the strong 
ground of a well established necessity/' This was 
the strongest ground that could be taken up. The 
opposition, therefore, entrenched itself behind the 
demand for a "well established necessity" for inter- 
ference, and on this ground were established claims 
for Government interference extending to nearly 
every important branch of industry carried on 
throughout the kingdom, — and, in every case, evi- 
dence was forthcoming in proof of the necessity for 
such legislation. 

The discussions that took place during the whole of 
that period were accompanied by prophecies of loss 
of every possible kind in connection with the industry 
of the nation ; not only loss of profit to the manufac- 
turer, but of loss of wages to the workers, and, to 
crown all, the loss of the country's trade, in conse- 
quence of the more enlarged freedom of action 
enjoyed by the foreign producers. Not one of these 
prophecies has been fulfilled ; neither profits nor 
wages suffered injury from the legislation complained 
of, nor did foreigners take our trade by lowness of 
cost in their own productions. Had they done so, 
they would have had no occasion to protect them- 
selves in their own markets by import duties, a policy 
which nearly all nations where manufacturing is 
carried on have adopted, including certain of our own 
most important colonies. 

General A ctivity, 1 5 5 


General Hctivitg^ 

T^E four years occupied by inquiries into the factory 
system, and the progress of the Bill through both 
Houses, were actively employed by Owen. His first 
care was for the factory children, and what made 
him more anxious for success in his undertaking 
was a fact which was developed prominently by the 
evidence given from the employers' side before the 
committee, namely, that the practices which prevailed 
were not considered as regrettable, but as necessarily 
arising out of the situation, — as perfectly right and 
justifiable, — as good, in every way, for all parties con- 
cerned. In truth, the system of factory working had 
so morally corrupted the men in whose interest it was 
carried on, that the distinctions between right and 
wrong, good and evil, in everything connected with it, 
were becoming rapidly obliterated. 

To confine the attention of the nation to one of 
the numerous evils connected with the several new 
industries then coming into existence would have been 
an error. Owen saw many injurious symptoms out- 
side the factory system, in connection with the labour 
of the country, and in conjunction with the newly- 
developed mechanical power then rapidly coming 
into use fot* protective purposes. One class, as he 
pointed out, was suffering deeply, but labour gene- 
rally was rapidly getting into wrong grooves, and 
producing miseries and discontents until then com- 
paratively unknown, as instanced in the Ludd riots ; 

156 LifCy Tijnes^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

and these, if not explained and corrected, were likely 
to lead to the worst consequences. During the 
years 181 5 to 18 19 he wrote several papers, which 
he circulated very extensively, and put himself into 
communication with many influential persons, that 
they might understand his views, and help in averting 
the dangers he apprehended. 

In his " Observations on the Effect of the Manufac- 
turing System," published in 1815, he dwelt on the 
rapid transference which was then taking place of the 
agricultural population to the manufacturing districts ; 
upon the astonishing growth in the country of industry, 
population, and wealth ; the consequent importance 
of our manufacturing system to the nation, and the 
paramount necessity of keeping it free from evils 
which, if unchecked in their growth, would more than 
counterbalance the benefits by which it was attended. 
" Hitherto," he says, " legislators have appeared to 
regard manufactures only from one point of view — as 
a source of national wealth. The other mighty conse- 
quences which proceed from extended manufactures, 
when left to their natural progress, have never yet 
engaged the attention of any legislature. Yet the 
political and moral effects to which we allude, well 
deserve to occupy the best faculties of the greatest 
and the wisest statesmen. The general diffusion of 
manufactures throughout the country generates a new 
character in its inhabitants ; and as this character 
is formed upon a principle quite unfavourable to 
individual or general happiness, it will produce, the 
most lamentable and permanent evils, unless its 
tendency be counteracted by legislative interference 
and direction." 

General A cHvity, 157 

He referred to the dangers by which a widely ex- 
tended export trade might be attended, and the 
possible dangers of foreign competition should too 
much dependence be placed on foreign trade. In 
reference to the Corn Laws, which had been passed in 
the same year, 181 5, and which had produced riots in A^ 
London, he says : — " The direct effect of the Corn 
Bill will be to hasten this decline in the foreign trade. 
In this view, it is deeply to be regretted that the Bill 
passed into law ; and I am persuaded its promoters 
will ere long discover the absolute necessity for its 
repeal, to prevent the misery which must ensue to the 
great mass of the people." After this he alludes to 
the deteriorating effect on the trading class of having 
their minds actively trained to the all-absorbing con- 
sideration of buying cheap and selling dear ; and 
goes on to urge consideration of the many mischiefs 
likely to attend a too early employment of the young, 
and a too constant drudgery for a bare subsistence 
imposed on all, without time for rest or healthy sports 
and amusements. He contrasts a rational system of 
treating children with the treatment which, as proved 
by the strongest evidence, they were then receiving in 
the factories. "In the manufacturing districts," he 
says, " it is common for parents to send their children 
of both sexes at seven or eight years of age, in winter 
as well as summer, at six o'clock in the morning, 
sometimes of course in the dark, and occasionally 
amidst frost and snow, to enter the manufactories, 
which are often heated to a high temperature, and 
contain an atmosphere far from being the most 
favourable to human life." And then, going more 
generally into the] subject, " I ask," he continues 

158 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Oiven. 

" those who have studied the science of government 
upon those enlightened principles which alone ought 
to influence the statesman, what is the difference, in a 
national view, between an individual trained in habits 
which give him health, temperance, industry, correct 
principles of judgment, foresight, and general good 
conduct ; and one trained in ignorance, idleness, in- 
temperance, defective powers of judging, and, in 
general, vicious habits ? Is not one of the former of 
more real worth and political strength to the State 
than many of the latter ? " 

The following is the closing paragraph of this paper: 
— " I now, therefore, in the name of the millions of 
neglected poor and ignorant whose habits and senti- 
ments have been hitherto formed to render them 
wretched, call upon the British Government and the 
British nation to unite their efforts to arrange a 
system to train and instruct those who, for any good 
or useful purpose, are now untrained and uninstructed ; 
and to arrest by a clear, easy, and practical system of 
prevention, the ignorance and consequent poverty, 
vice, and misery which are rapidly increasing through- 
out the empire : for, ' Train up a child in the way he 
should go, and when he is old he will not depart from 

In March 18 17 Robert Owen published a report 
addressed to the Committee for the Relief of the 
Manufacturing and Labouring Poor. This is a 
carefully-drawn report, and is accompanied by plans 
of buildings ; and, in connection with these, by a full 
explanation of the internal economy of such establish- 
ments as colonies for the poor. The employment 
of paupers is arranged for with regard to its useful- 

General Activity. 159 

ness as well as to its value as discipline, and esti- 
mates furnished of the cost per head in building and\ 
furnishing. " The immense sums," he says, " annually 
raised for them (the poor) are lavished in utter dis- 
regard of every principle of public justice and 
economy. They offer greater rewards for idleness 
and vice than for industry and virtue, and thus 
directly operate to increase the degradation and 
misery of the classes whom they are designed to 
serve. No sum, however enormous, administered 
after this manner could be productive of any other 
result, — rather will pauperism and wretchedness in- 
crease along with the increase of an expenditure thus 
applied." In this plan he proposes to do away with! 
the heavy annual expenditure of poor-rates, by making 
these establishments self-supporting ; to prevent the/ 
continuance of a pauper race, by the interposition of a 
system of education and industrial training, which 
would render the new generations unfit for the 
paupers' condition of life. 

Many details are entered into, which show how 
carefully he had considered the subject This pauper- 
ism is still (1882) a terrible drag on the nation's 
resources. It still descends as an inheritance from 
father to son ; its cost still increases; it still calls for 
annual millions. The fifteen years ending 1881 give 
a return as actual expenditure on pauperism of 125 
millions sterling, and, as in the last of these years 
more money was spent than in the first, it is not 
unreasonable to suppose that the next fifteen years 
may increase the sum to something approaching 150 
millions. Owen insisted that these enormous sums 
could be saved were rational practical steps taken 

i6o Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

for the employment of the poor, and, in his report, he 
pointed out how this might be done. 

Carlyle's remarks on the condition of the paupers 
of England in 1843, some years after the whole 
system had been "reformed," are more picturesque, 
but not more true than Owen's. " Passing by the 
workhouse of St Ives, in Huntingdonshire, on a 
bright day last autumn, I saw, sitting on wooden 
benches in front of their Bastille, and within their 
ring wall and its railings, some half hundred and 
more of these men. Tall, robust figures, young 
mostly, or of middle age, of honest countenance, 
many of them thoughtful and even intelligent-looking 
men. They sat there, near by one another, but in a 
kind of torpor, especially in a silence, which was very 
striking. In silence, for, alas, what word was to be 
said ? An earth all lying round, crying, ' Come and 
till me, come and reap me,' yet we here sit enchanted. 
In the eyes and brows of these men hung the 
gloomiest expression, not of anger, but of grief and 
shame, and manifold inarticulate distress and weari- 
ness. They returned my glance with a glance that 
seemed to say, ' Do not look at us, we sit enchanted 
here, we know not why. The sun shines, and the 
earth calls, and, by the governing powers and im- 
potence of England, we are forbidden to obey. It is 
impossible, they tell us.' *' 

Further information on this head may be derived 
from Mr Nassau W. Senior, who, in the most prosaic 
way, and in the fewest words, tells the world in his 
essay on the English Poor Laws, that from 1784 to 
1830, side by side with our enormous growth of 
manufacturing industry and what is called prosperity, 

General A ctivity. 1 6 1 

poor-rates had increased from slightly over two 
millions sterling to close on seven millions per annum ; 
and in " whole counties the rates equalled a third of 
the remaining rental, while estates were abandoned, 
and whole parishes were on the point of being thrown 
up, without capital or occupier, to the poor." During 
the progress of such a state of things, it is no wonder 
that a man like Owen thought and preached, and 
projected and laboured, so that men might be brought 
to a wise use of the wealth -creating power they 
possessed, and to a more humane and equitable dis- 

In the July of the same year (1817) Owen published 
a further development of his plan for the relief of the 
manufacturing and labouring poor. In this he more 
fully explains, by question and answer, how his plans 
were to be carried out, and replies to many of the 
theoretical objections which at that time were dis- 
cussed by those whose minds had been directed to 
the subject. One of the questions put and answered 
in this document relates to the objection founded on 
the argument of Mai thus as to the rapid increase of 
population and its pressure on the supply of food. 

The question is, " But will not these establishments 
tend to increase population beyond the means of sub- 
sistence, too rapidly for the wellbeing of society?" 
He answers, " I have no apprehension whatever on 
this ground. Every agriculturist knows that each 
labourer now employed in agriculture can produce 
five or six times more'lboff than~he can eat; and, 
therefore, even if no other facililies were given to him 
than those he now possesses, there is no necessity in 
nature'Ibr *thc population to press against subsist- 


1 62 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

ence' until the earth is fully cultivat ed. T here can be 
no doubt that it is the artificial law of supply and 
demand, -arising from the pniT^^jJjjL*:*^ inHivirTnat ^i\\y), 
in opposition" to ^Ee general wellbeing^ j)JL5ociety, 
which has hitherto compelled population to press 
upon subsistence. The certain effect of acting on the 
principle of individual gain is ever to limit the supply 
of food, in an average season, to a sufficiency accord- 
ing to the customs of the times for the existing 
inhabitants of the earth ; consequently, in a favour- 
able season, and in proportion as the season may be 
favourable, there will be abundance of food, and it 
will be cheap ; and in an unfavourable season, in pro- 
portion as the season may be unfavourable, food will 
be scarce and dear, and famine will ensue. And yet 
no one who understands anything practically on the 
subject, can for a moment doubt that at the period 
immediately preceding the most grievous famine ever 
known, the means existed in ample profusion to have 
enabled the population, under proper arrangements, 
had they possessed the knowledge to form them, to 
produce a stock of food amounting even to an ex- 
cessive superabundance. Whatever may have been 
imagined by intelligent individuals who have written 
/ and thought upon the subject, the annual increase of 
population is really one by one. We know its utmost 
limit, it is only — it can be only — an arithmetical 
increase ; whereas each individual brings into the 
world with him the means, aided by the existing 
knowledge of science, and under proper direction, 
sufficient to enable him to produce food equal to more 
than ten times his consumption. The fear, then, of 
any evil to arise from an excess of population until 

General A ctivity, 1 63 

such time as the whole earth shall become a highly 
cultivated garden will, on due and accurate investiga- 
tion, prove a mere phantom of the imagination, 
calculated solely to keep the world in unnecessary 
ignorance, vice, and crime, and to prevent society 
from becoming what it ought to be, well-trained and \ 
well-instructed, and, under an intelligent system of 
mutual goodwill and kindness, active, virtuous, and 

Since these words were written tons of paper have 
been used in controversies relative to the correctness 
of the views of Malthus on the different ratios of 
increase in food and population. Such a dispute can 
scarcely be considered worth the paper used in carry- 
ing it on. Our popuktion in 1801 was over nine 
millions. According to the ratio of increase with 
which Malthus frightened our fathers, it ought in 1882 
to have been over ninety millions, whilst the census 
taken in 1881 tells us that we are still under twenty- 
six millions. The food supplies, however, in their 
increase, have distanced anything the wildest imagi- 
nation could have dreamed of, as in 1880 our imports 
of food amounted to no less a sum than \2\\ millions 
sterling. Our population is sixty-four millions less 
than it should have been, as prospectively added up 
by Malthus ; whilst our food supplies from foreign 
sources are at least 115 millions of pounds' worth 
more than he or his disciples took into their reckoning, 
whilst the fields from which this marvellous supply 
comes are daily widening, and becoming by power of 
transit more accessible. Owen grasped the higher 
and more essential truth when he said, " It is the 
artificial law of supply and demand, arising from the 

164 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

principles of individual gain, in opposition to the 
general wellbeing of society, which has hitherto com- 
pelled population to press upon subsistence." 


plans ant) principles* 

When Robert Owen was in London, fighting his 
battle for the factory children, he derived no support 
from the working people. He had never made any 
appeal to them through the press or from the plat- 
form, as he counted on getting the kind of support 
he most needed from persons who by their wealth 
and influence were likely in the shortest time, and in 
the most practical way, to give effect to his proposals. 
" At this period," he says, " I had no public intercourse 
with the operatives and working classes in any part of 
the two islands — not even in the metropolis. They 
were strangers to me and to all my views and future 
intentions. I was at all periods of my progress, from 
my earliest knowledge and employment of them, their 
true friend ; whilst their democratic and much-mistaken 
leaders taught them that I was their enemy, a friend 
to all in authority, and that I desired to make slaves 
of them in these villages of unity and mutual co- 

Owen had, in fact, to hold his first meeting with no 
support beyond what came through the sympathy of 
the friends he met in London, of those who had visited 
New Lanark, or of such persons as had come to him 

Plafis and Principles, 165 

through reading his published addresses. Empha- 
tically he had no party. The subject he had to deal 
with was not in its true character easily understood ; 
and the common run of Tories and Whigs, combined 
with those who had taken religion under their charge, 
disliked his proposals as tending to open up ques- 
tions in relation to which they desired quietude and 

He had around him a large number of influential 
persons, but he suspected that many of these would 
fly off" when public opposition became vigorous. His 
great reliance was on the newspaper press, and he 
secured the insertion of his first addresses by agreeing 
to purchase largely the papers which inserted them. 
The proceedings connected with the great meetings 
held in the City of London Tavern, 18 17, cost him 
four thousand pounds. His addresses were published 
in full in every London morning and evening news- 
paper, and, beyond the ordinary circulation of these 
papers, he purchased thirty thousand extra copies, 
and had one copy sent to the minister of every parish 
in the kingdom ; one also to every member of both 
Houses of Parliament, one to each of the chief magis- 
trates and bankers in each city and town in England, 
and one to each of the leading persons of all classes 
in each of these cities and towns. In addition, he 
published three broadsheets, containing the details of 
his proceedings as given in the Times and in the 
other London morning and evening papers. Of these 
broadsheets he printed forty thousand copies, and 
such, he says, " was the eagerness to procure them, that 
the forty thousand were called for in three days." 

It was while he was making these efforts he became 

1 66 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

aware of the -steps taken by his opponents to destroy 
the effects of his labours by secret attempts at de- 
famation, especially on religious grounds. He found 
that these efforts were not entirely without success, as 
some who had been friendly up to that time drew off 
in alarm. He expresses himself as not surprised at 
this, seeing that much he had said was calculated to 
excite the prejudices of those not thoroughly ac- 
quainted with his meaning and intentions. To himself 
such an opposition was not of much consequence ; but 
these attempts, coupled with what was done in the 
same way by the factory owners, put upon him the 
necessity of stating distinctly his views in regard to 
religion. He says, " When the weapons used in this 
warfare, however unfair and illegitimate they may 
have been, were directed against the individual only, 
they were disregarded. I cared, and do still care, as 
little for the individual as any of his opponents did 
or can. I make him, as they shall now be made, an 
instrument to forward measures for our mutual and 
general benefit. He has been hitherto so employed 
without regard to vanity or self- consequence of any 
kind. But as absurd and ridiculous insinuations now 
set afloat are intended to retard the work I have 
undertaken, they must be met, and they have deter- 
mined the next step that I shall adopt, and about 
which I was deliberating. It is that a public meeting 
shall be held in the City of London Tavern, on 
Thursday the 14th day of August, to take into con- 
sideration a plan to be proposed to relieve the country 
from its present distress, to remoralise the poor, reduce 
the poor-rates, and abolish pauperism and all its 
injurious consequences. At that meeting I invite 

Plans and Principles, 167 

those parties, and any others whom they can enlist in 
their cause, to come forward and make everything 
they have to say against me publicly known. I wish 
to gratify them to the utmost of their desires, and as 
they may not possess all the requisites for the purpose, 
I will give them the clue by which they may pursue 
and discover all the errors of my past life." 

After this follows a short sketch of the life he had 
lived up to that time, and he adds, " I wish that 
everything which can be said against the individual 
may be urged by those who are desirous so to do, in 
order to have done with these trifling and insignificant 
personalities, and that I may proceed onward to the 
accomplishment of that which is of real practical 
utility. Let them, therefore, at such public meeting 
bring forward every saying and action of mine that 
has displeased them. I only ask that the attack 
shall be fair, open, and direct. It shall then be met, 
and shall be overcome. I shall," he continues, " not 
ask for or accept any quarter. My purpose has been 
long fixed, and my determination is not to give any 
quarter to the errors and evils of the existing systems, 
— civil, political, and religious." 

Owen, at his meetings, fulfilled his promise. He 
certainly kept nothing back ; indeed, it is question- 
able whether he did not go further than was necessary 
in challenging the hostility of enemies. Upon the 
whole, perhaps, his conclusion was the right one ; for 
though he had at the moment raised up much 
opposition, it is certain that time being given the 
opposition would have come, as the charges of un- 
charitable bigots once commenced seldom cease until 
their objects are accomplished. 

1 68 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

The worst part of the opposition was not that 
made on religious grounds. Curiously enough, the 
liberal political men, who ought to have given him 
support, thronged to his first meeting in a spirit 
of unmitigated hostility, — Henry Hunt, the Radical 
leader, who, two years afterwards, figured at Peterloo, 
Manchester ; Mr Wooler, of Black Dwarf notoriety ; 
Mr Waithman, afterwards well known as Alderman 
Waithman, and in connection with his publication, 
The Reformists' Register ; William Hone, the author 
of the " Everyday Book," whose attack was severe, 
though not damaging. An impartial examination 
of the proposals that called forth this strange anta- 
gonism will show how unreasonable it was, and how 
deplorable the spirit of party is when those who lead 
take no trouble to examine and comprehend what 
they undertake either to oppose or support. 

The Government of the day was actively hostile to 
political reform of every kind, and by the Radical 
party they were always suspected and opposed. 
Several of its members were in favour of Robert 
Owen's proposals for a reform of the factory system, 
and this made the Radicals suspect him ; but had 
they listened and understood, they must have seen 
that in the reforms he asked for and advocated, he 
was one of the most thorough Radicals of his time. 
He laid it down emphatically, — "(i.) That a country 
can never be beneficially wealthy while it supports a 
large portion of its working classes in idle poverty, 
or in useless occupation. (2.) That ignorance and 
poverty must demoralise the inhabitants of any 
country. (3.) That a population so demoralised, 
surrounded by such temptations as gin-shops, low 

Plans and Principles. 169 

pot-houses, gambling, and other inducements to evil 
conduct, must, as a matter of mere necessity, become 
imbecile and useless, or vicious and criminal. (4.) 
That strong coercion, and cruel and useless punish- 
ments, must necessarily follow. (5.) That discontent, 
and every kind of opposition to those who govern, 
must inevitably ensue, at a heavy cost both in crime 
and punishment to the general community. (6.) That, 
while these incentives to everything vile and criminal 
shall be permitted and encouraged by Government, 
it is downright mockery to talk about religion, and of 
improving the condition and morals of the working 
classes. (7.) That to talk and act thus, in a vain 
attempt to deceive the public, is inconsistent and 
unmeaning jargon, by which the public cannot con- 
tinue to be deceived. (8.) That to expect any per- 
manent national improvement, whilst such a condition 
of things is allowed to remain, is the same as to 
expect the drying up of the ocean while all the 
rivers of the earth are pouring their streams into its 

Then follows this query : — " Shall yet another 
year pass in which crime shall be forced on the 
infant who, in ten, twenty, or thirty years, shall 
perhaps suffer death for the ignorance and bad ex- 
ample that led to such crime ? Should such be the 
case, the members of the present Parliament — the 
legislators of to-day — ought, in strict and impartial 
justice, to be amenable to the laws for not adopting 
the means in their power to prevent the crime, rather 
than the poor, untrained, and unprotected culprit, 
whose previous years, if he had language to describe 
them, would exhibit a life of unceasing wretchedness. 


170 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

and that arising solely from the errors of society." 
Notwithstanding these extreme views, and this bold 
expression of strong Radical thought, the political 
leaders, not finding in it the ordinary slang of the 
political warfare in which they had been engaged, 
gave so fierce an opposition that, although the first 
resolutions proposed were ultimately passed, the 
meeting had to be adjourned for a week. William 
Hone, a thoroughly honest reformer, who had fought 
and suffered for his principles, did not see the posi- 
tion. He was a believer in Malthus, and was indig- 
nant that Owen should thrust aside without ceremony 
an authority who had proved so clearly that, whilst 
population increased in the geometrical ratio of i, 2, 
4, 8, 16, 32, food could only increase in an arith- 
metical ratio of i, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. This misleading 
popular fallacy now only lingers here and there, like 
the belief in witchcraft. 

This meeting was the occasion of one of his large 
investments in newspapers. He purchased and cir- 
culated thirty thousand through the post-office ; and 
as in those days the mail-coaches alone were available 
for transmission, the secretary of the post-office had 
to send an official minute to the Treasury to say that 
Mr Owen had sent so many extra newspapers, that 
the mail-coaches leaving London had to be delayed 
twenty minutes beyond the regular time. 

It was not on the political side, however, that 
Owen saw his chief danger. The opposition sud- 
denly started on him at his great city meeting was 
the result of ignorance as to his character and 
intentions, but this, as the agitation proceeded, might 
have been easily corrected. His earnestness, and the 

Plans mid Principles. 1 7 1 

comprehensiveness of his proposals in connection 
with the condition of the working population, would 
have overcome all popular opposition in a reasonable 
time. The opposition on religious grounds could 
not be thus vanquished. Delay promised a serious 
increase of danger, and he decided at once to take 
up the challenge given by those who had entered 
the lists against him on religious grounds. His plans 
for industrial villages contained provision for educa- 
tion, and there can be no doubt that he was strongly 
opposed to any kind of sectarianism. Much as we 
condemn the attempts which were made to damage 
his reputation, allowance must be made in some 
degree for honest alarm in regard to the religious 
teaching that might be introduced into these proposed 

His enthusiasm in favour of his plans was un- 
bounded, while the knowledge he possessed of the 
evil effects of an active sectarianism, then felt by him 
in his own person, led to his decision to immediately 
face this difficulty. It is not unlikely, if he had 
succeeded in starting one or two of his villages, that 
gradually an over-active proselytism might have crept 
in, as his leading friends belonged to many sects, and 
it was hardly to be expected that in small com- 
munities, composed mostly of the poor, a restraint 
not practised elsewhere would be found. At Lanark, 
he was absolute master. What he did for the people 
in his employment was so obviously done with a 
view to their welfare, that, so long as his partners 
consented, he could meet with no powerful opposition. 
In educating the children he carefully abstained from 
interference with religious views or prejudices. The 



172 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

workers who knew him, and who had the utmost 
faith in his honesty of purpose, trusted him fully. 
The outside world did not know him so well, and 
therefore it was not unreasonable that his proceedings 
should be regarded with some degree of suspicion. 
The facts of his life were all in his favour ; but the 
suspicions that grow out of the common practices of 
the world were against him. He began to see clearly 
that the fight must come sooner or later ; to enter on 
it at once, therefore, was perhaps the wisest thing he 
could do. 

Looking at the way it came, it cannot be regarded 
as a challenge by him to the prejudices of the world, 
but as an assault on him by the prejudiced and intoler- 
ant. Had he avoided meeting the attack, his position 
must have become worse rather than better, as the 
suspicions raised would have followed him, whatever 
he might have attempted, and in the end might have 
broken him down. At that time the Test and Cor- 
poration Acts were not repealed. In fact, the many 
injuries inflicted even through law for differences in 
creed, furnished proof that, however much we may 
fall short in true liberality now, our fathers, in the 
early portion of the present century, were much 
behind us in the liberality of thought that frankly 
acknowledges the right of difference in regard to 
religious opinions. Taking into consideration the 
opposition at the meeting of August the 14th, covert 
and open, political and religious, it was a great 
success. The amendments were negatived, but, on 
Mr Owen's motion, the meeting was adjourned to the 
2 1 St of the same month. Five resolutions had been 
passed, but as there were several others, and as he 

His Religion. 173 

had not said what he had desired to say in relation 
to the opposition he had encountered on religious 
grounds, this second meeting was looked forward to 
with so much interest by the public, that it was, says 
Owen, " densely crowded, although held at noon, and 
again hundreds and thousands had to be disappointed 
who could not gain admittance, and many waited till 
five o'clock before any moved to allow of their en- 
trance, and even afterwards, until its dismissal at 
seven, it remained crowded." 


1bi0 IReliglon* 

It was important that Robert Owen should, if possible, 
clear out of his way the difficulties that had arisen 
in regard to his religious opinions. He had to decide 
whether he should publicly explain away views that 
were distasteful to many of his friends and supporters, 
and thus allay a threatened antagonism, or stand 
firmly on his own ground, meeting all attacks without 
permitting any doubt to exist as to the opinions he 
entertained of certain accepted beliefs, which he 
regarded not only as obstructive of good, but as 
abundantly productive of many evils, including divi- 
sion, hatred, and persecution, and as most mischievous 
in preventing the kindly alliance among men which 
was necessary for the promotion of the associative 
objects he had in view. He was not, nor did he ever 
pretend to be, a judge of differences in religious 
dogma ; but he believed that it was the duty of men 

174 Life^ Times y and Labours of Robert Owen, 

to dwell ^^tog ether in peace , and labour eai 
as breth ren in an intellisfent consci ousness of their 
common requirements, for the reasonable satisfaction 
of their common wants, and in an acknowledgment of 
their common duties. 

There was in the position he assumed no hatred 
of old creeds. He neither disputed the right nor 
questioned the sincerity of those who taught or pro- 
fessed them. His wife was a zealous believer in the 
religion in which she was brought up, and he never 
disputed or interfered with her desire to educate his 
children in the creed she thought the best; and there- 
fore when those who sought to injure his character 
inquired as to his habits and mode of life, they were 
informed that the Bible was regularly read in the 
New Lanark schools, and that in his house family 
prayer was a daily practice. He never disguised his 
opinions publicly or privately, where it was necessary 
to state them ; but he never sought by authority, or by 
unseasonable and over-zealous argument, to force them 
on others. He did not undervalue speculations in 
regard to religious or any other kind of truth ; but, 
considering the great main divisions into which men 
are separated, and the minor or sectarian sub-divisions 
in each of these, he did not expect that agreement 
could be easily brought about. He had, nevertheless, 
a strong belief that as men came to understand each 
other better, they would make a more generous allow- 
ance for these differences, and thus draw into their 
various creeds so much of charitable and kindly con- 
sideration, as might render their intercourse more 
productive of mutual goodwill and joint endeavour in 
promoting the happiness of all. 

His Religion, 175 

He considered that the various religious beliefs of 
the world were not voluntarily adopted, and could not 
be given up by any effort of the will; that the growth 
of knowledge led to improvement in religious thought, 
as the more that was known of the universe and its 
operations, the more elevated would be our human 
conceptions of the power and wisdom that "directs 
the atom and controls the aggregate of nature." 
The evil effect of holding men responsible for their 
opinions he studied in the grim story of religious wars 
and sectarian persecutions. He had learned how one 
infallibility sought to exterminate another by means 
of torture and death, for differences of opinion which 
perhaps neither of them understood ; and he knew 
enough of the struggles for free thought in the world, 
to be horrified by the cruelties practised by the 
majority to strangle the new belief of the individual 
or the minority. It was impossible to make him 
understand that there were really such differences as 
justified persecution even to death. It is no wonder, 
therefore, that he regarded persecution on the ground 
of difference of creed as by far a worse crime than any 
possible error in doctrine ; and believing as he did in 
the necessity of mutual goodwill among men, for the 
realising of their highest aims by joint effort, it appears 
natural that he should deprecate any doctrine that 
divided men from each other in bitterness of spirit. 

It was because of the want of charity among 
men calling themselves Christians that he insisted so 
strongly on the doctrine of non-responsibility for 
belief At that time the penal laws against the 
Roman Catholics were unrepealed, the laws against 
the eligibility of Dissenters to municipal office still 

176 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

existed. Quakers were excluded from their rights as 
citizens, and Jews were regarded as unfit to be ad- 
mitted to their civil privileges. The rack and the 
fagot had been laid aside, but the spirit of persecution 
was by no means dead. Every man who took any 
part in promoting freedom of thought felt this in his 
own person, and among these Robert Owen was soon 
made aware that in disturbing and seeking to destroy 
old prejudices, he was laying himself open to the 
attacks of bigots of every denomination. 

He might have gone on explaining and denying, 
and excusing and apologising, if such a policy was to 
him possible, but it was not. He believed himself 
right, and he preferred saying this, and justifying him- 
self, whatever might come of it. Michelet, in his 
" Life of Luther," describes the determination with 
which that reformer met the challenge of his enemies. 
Every argument was used to dissuade him from 
attending the Diet at Worms. " I will repair thither," 
he said, " though I should find there as many devils 
as there are tiles on the house-tops." Owen went to 
his meeting of 21st August 18 17 in this spirit, quietly 
determined to do what he believed to be his duty. 
He described to those assembled the measures he 
suggested for improving the condition of the people, 
and then, addressing himself to the religious aspect of 
the question as it had been forced on him, said, " It 
may now be asked, if the new arrangements proposed 
really possess all the advantages that have been stated, 
why have they not been adopted in universal practice 
during all the ages that have passed ? Why should 
so many countless millions of our fellow-creatures, 
through each successive generation, have been the 

His Religion, 177 

victims of ignorance, of superstition, of mental 
degradation, and of wretchedness? A more im- 
portant question has never yet been put to the sons 
of men ! Who can answer it ? Who dare answer it 
but with his life in his hand, — a ready and willing 
victim to the truth, and to the emancipation of the 
world from its long bondage of disunion, error, crime, 
and misery? . . . Whatever may be the conse- 
quences, I will now perform my duty to you and 
to the world ; and should it be the last act of my 
life, I shall be well content, and know that I have 
lived for an important purpose. Then, my friends, I 
tell you that hitherto you have been prevented from 
even knowing what happiness really is, solely by 
means of the errors, gross errors, that have been 
combined with the fundamental notions of every 
religion that has hitherto been taught to men, who 
in consequence have been made the most incon- 
sistent and the most miserable beings in existence. 
By the errors of these systems, man has been made a 
weak imbecile animal, a furious bigot and fanatic, or 
a miserable hypocrite ; and should these qualities be 
carried, not only into the projected villages, but into 
paradise itself, a paradise would be no longer found. 
In all the religions that have been hitherto forced on 
the minds of men, deep, dangerous, and lament- 
able principles of dissension, division, and separation, 
have been fast entwined with all their fundamental 
notions ; and the certain consequences have been all 
the dire effects which religious animosities have, 
through all the past periods of the world, inflicted 
with such unrelenting stern severity, or mad and 
furious zeal. If, therefore, my friends, you should 


1/8 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

carry with you into these proposed villages of in- 
tended unity and unlimited mutual co-operation, one 
single particle of religious intolerance or sectarian 
feeling of division and separation, maniacs only 
would go there to look for harmony and happiness, 
or elsewhere, as long as such insane errors shall be 
found to exist." 

Having delivered himself thus, he added, " I am 
not going to ask impossibilities from you. I know 
what you can do ; and I know also what you cannot 
do. Consider again on what ground each man in 
existence has a full right to the enjoyment of the 
most unlimited liberty of conscience. I am not of 
your religion, nor of any religion yet taught in the 
world. To me they all appear united with much — 
yes, with very much — error. Am I to blame for 
thinking thus? Those who possess any real know- 
ledge of human nature know that I cannot think 
otherwise, that it is not in my power, of myself, to 
change the thoughts and ideas which appear to me to 
be true. Ignorance, bigotry, and superstition may 
again, as they have so often done before, attempt to 
force belief against conviction, and thus carry the 
correct-minded conscientious victim to the stake, or 
make a human being wretchedly insincere. Therefore, 
unless the world is now prepared to dismiss all its 
erroneous religious notions, and to feel the justice and 
necessity of publicly acknowledging the most un- 
limited religious freedom, it will be futile to erect 
villages of union and mutual co-operation ; for it will 
be vain to look on this earth for inhabitants to occupy 
them, who can understand how to live in the bonds of 
peace and unity, or who can love their neighbour as 

His Religion. 179 

themselves, whether he be Jew or Gentile, Moham- 
medan or Pagan, Infidel or Christian. Any religion 
that creates one particle of feeling short of this is 
false, and must prove a curse to the whole human 

I have given here, I think, the strongest form of 
Owen's infidelity. Beyond this I cannot find that he 
ever went. He attacked warmly and earnestly the 
belief that a man's religious opinions were under his 
own control and could be changed at will. This false 
supposition, as he considered it, led to uncharitable- 
ness of thought and to persecution ; it preyed on the 
minds of individuals, disturbed the peace of families, 
produced mischievous and cruel contentions between 
sects, and not unfrequently plunged nations into war. 
For this belief he had no mercy, as he considered it 
at all times the worst obstacle to human progress. 

So far, therefore, as this may be considered an 
essential part of any religion, he may, without hesi- 
tation, be regarded as an unbeliever ; but I have 
nowhere found in his works, or in his reported words, 
any attack on the accepted Christianity of the country. 
If classed at all, he would have been regarded as a 
Unitarian. Of Christ and His labours he always 
spoke with the most profound respect, and regarded 
His persecutions and death as the result of the error, 
in regard to the voluntary action of belief, which he 
so strongly and so constantly condemned. Perhaps 
there never was a man who regarded with greater 
dislike attacks on religious opinions or prejudices. 
He stood firmly on the right to think for himself and 
speak for himself on all matters, but he most frankly 
and sincerely insisted on the same right being accorded 

i8o Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

to others. When what is now known as the Socialist 
movement was active in the work of propagandism, 
and when men of all shades of religious belief were 
encouraged to enter its ranks, many did so who 
were strict believers, though the majority were by 
no means of this character ; but whatever their 
creed, or want of creed, they were made welcome if 
they could add what he called " religion of the new 
moral world" to such creed as they might profess. 
This religion, or whatever else it may be called, was 
simple, and had reference to practice rather than faith. 
It consisted in the unceasing effort to promote the 
happiness of every man, woman, and child, to the 
greatest possible extent, without regard to their class, 
sect, party, country, or colour. This simple creed 
was all that his followers were called on to believe in, 
and whatever they thought proper to join to this 
might be added without offence. 

He published in later years his own personal ideas 
of the Deity, but they were only his own. He says 
he had been requested to state them, and he did so 
without any wish to dogmatise. His words are, that 
"human knowledge is not sufficiently advanced to 
enable us to state upon this subject more than pro- 
bable conjectures, derived from those laws of nature 
which have been made known to us." That from 
these we deduce the following probable truths :— 
" That an eternal, uncaused existence has ever filled 
the universe, and is therefore omnipresent. That this 
eternal, uncaused, omnipresent existence possesses 
attributes to govern the universe as it is governed. 
That these attributes, being eternal and infinite, are 
powers which are incomprehensible to man. That 

His Religion. i8i 

these eternal and infinite attributes are probably those 
laws of nature by which, at all times, in all places, the 
operations of the universe are incessantly continued. 
That it is of no importance whether men call this 
eternal, uncaused, omnipresent existence, matter or 
spirit, because names alter nothing, explain nothing, 
and man knows the forms and qualities of the exist- 
ences around him only so far as his senses have been 
made to perceive them. That if this power had de- 
sired to make the nature of its existence known to 
man, it would have enabled him to comprehend it 
without mystery or doubt. That as this knowledge 
has not yet been given to or acquired by man, it is 
not essential to his wellbeing and happiness. That 
man is formed to be what he is by this power ; and 
that the object of his existence is the attainment of 
happiness. That the power that made man cannot 
ever, in the slightest iota, be changed in its eternal 
course, by the request or prayer of so small and in- 
significant a being as man is when compared with the 
universe and its operations. That all dissensions 
among men on these mere speculative matters are 
the greatest mistakes that man has ever made, and 
are now the most formidable obstacles to his attain- 
ment of happiness — the ultimate object of his nature. 
That for the convenience of discourse it is necessary 
that some concise term should be adopted, by which 
to designate this eternal, uncaused, omnipresent 
power; and that the term God is perhaps as un- 
exceptional for this purpose as any one word that 
can be employed ; and it has the additional recom- 
mendation of general use in its favour." 

To the question as to what is the duty of man to 

1 82 Life^ Times^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

this power, he replies, " That it is to attain the object 
of his existence ; which is to be happy himself, to 
make his fellow-beings happy, and to endeavour to 


make the existence of all who are formed to feel' 
pleasure and pain as delightful as his knowledge and 
power and their nature will admit." It may be 
necessary to make one remark here. Some of the 
words used may mislead if not interpreted as under- 
stood and used by him. For instance, the word 
" happiness " had with him no low, sensual meaning. 
It indicated the greatest good attainable by the fullest 
development and noblest use of the highest human 
faculties and powers. 


Ibis Utip to tbe Continent* 

Mr Sargant, in his book "Robert Owen and his 
Philosophy," tells his readers that when Owen made 
his declaration on the subject of religious belief, it 
brought him " neglect, hatred, contempt, calumny, 
and all the ills that follow an excommunicated man." 
I shall offer no contradiction to this beyond that 
furnished by a statement of facts, especially as the 
censures in which this writer indulges may be classed 
among those which Owen himself treated with 

The declaration was made on the 2ist of August 
1817, when no public steps of any importance had 
been taken to realise Owen's plans for the relief of 

His Trip to the Continent, 183 

the poor. A considerable number of people had 
gathered around him, and some of these drew off 
when they found he was not a man of accommodating 
orthodoxies. Charities, and other public efforts into 
which benevolence entered, were in those days very 
frequently worked with a sectarian bias, and in that 
way obtained sectarian help. A number of people 
otherwise likely enough to help in Owen*s movement, 
were no doubt strong sectarians, and of these many 
would naturally disconnect themselves with a man 
who so openly declared his opinions, not on religious 
dogma so much as on the persecuting tendencies and 
practices of those who, insisting on the voluntary 
nature of belief, held individuals responsible for their 
religious convictions, and hated and oppressed them 
in consequence. 

But when all allowance has been made, to speak, 
as Mr Sargant does, of " neglect, hatred, contempt, 
calumny, and all the ills that follow an excommuni- 
cated man," falling on the head of Robert Owen, is 
worse than misleading. That men like Mr Sargant 
denounced him, may be true; equally so that they did 
so without being careful as to facts. To say that, 
" if he was the prince of cotton spinners, he was after 
all a cotton spinner, — a trader, who had fed himself 
fat on the practices he now pretended to decry," is 
a statement that must have been dictated simply by 
prejudice, as it was well known that Owen was not 
such a person. He never at any time pursued such 
a course. His proceedings were from the first based 
on a detestation of such practices, as was witnessed 
by hundreds of visitors, men of unimpeachable posi- 
tion and character, many of whom bore ample 

184 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

testimony to results very different from those pro- 
duced elsewhere by the practices Owen condemned. 
He never fed himself fat on the profits of his trade, 
but spent them to help forward the reforms he 
deemed so necessary. His reply to a similar charge, 
made by the Bishop of Exeter, may serve as answer 
to Mr Sargant, who made the above accusation ten 
years after the following statement had been pub- 
lished : — " I have always expended to the last shilling 
my surplus wealth in promoting this great and good 
cause, for funds have always been required to hasten 
its progress as I desired. The right reverend prelate 
is greatly deceived when he says, as he is reported to 
have said, that I had squandered my wealth in profli- 
gacy and luxury. I have never expended a pound 
in either ; all my habits are habits of temperance in 
all things, and I challenge the right reverend prelate 
and all his abettors to prove the contrary, and I will 
give him and them the means of following me 
through every stage and month of my life." 

Soon after his declaration, he visited France, in 
company with Professor Pictet. Pictet was a man of 
eminence, and had been sent by the Swiss Republic 
as envoy-extraordinary to the Congress of Vienna 
in 1 8 14, and to that of Paris in 1815. Owen's 
principal object in this trip was to visit the establish- 
ment of M. de Fellenberg at Hofwyl, for the purpose 
of inspecting a system of instruction then famous all 
over Europe ; and so greatly pleased was he by what 
he saw, that he arranged to send his two eldest boys 
there to complete their education. 

At Paris he was well received, especially by Louis 
Philippe, then Duke of Orleans, to whom he carried 

His Trip to the Continent, 185 

a letter of introduction from the Duke of Kent. He 
was introduced to the French prime-minister, who, 
being acquainted with his ideas, stated his conviction 
of their soundness, but pronounced them to be pre- 
mature. In addition to this, he made the acquaintance 
of Alexander von Humboldt, and La Place. From 
Paris he went to Geneva, where he met with 
Sismondi ; examined carefully the educational estab- 
lishment of Father Oberlin at Friburg, and Pestalozzi 
at Yverdun. Then to Frankfort, where he prepared 
the memorials which he afterwards presented to the 
allied sovereigns assembled in congress at Aix-la- 

Having arranged with Lord Castlereagh for the 
presentation of his memorials, he left Aix-la-Chapelle 
to return to Switzerland. He attended, by the invita- 
tion of M. Pictet, who was president, a meeting of 
the " Swiss National Society of Natural History," at 
Lausanne, and he explained his views by invitation of 
the meeting, after which he was unanimously elected 
an honorary member of the society. On reaching 
Paris, on his way to England, he was informed by a 
member of the French Administration that his memo- 
rials had been laid before the Congress at Aix-la- 
Chapelle, and had been very favourably received. 

The first is entitled a ** Memorial to the Govern- 
ments of Europe and America, on Behalf of the 
Working Classes." It is dated 20th September 18 18, 
and after stating the number of years over which his 
observations extended, he explains that he is not 
influenced by partiality or prejudice for or against 
any class, sect, party, or country. That he views the 
whole human race as men created with the same 

1 86 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

general faculties and qualities, though varied in 
degree, and trained by circumstances over which 
society has control, to despise, hate, and oppose each 
other, even to death, when they might be trained to 
esteem, to love, and to aid each other. " The imme- 
diate causes," he goes on to say, " which make this 
change necessary, are the overwhelming effect of new 
scientific power and the rapid increase of knowledge 
among all classes of men. The former will soon 
render human labour of little avail in the creation of 
wealth; while the latter will make evident to the 
people the absolute necessity which has thus arisen 
for them to give a different direction to their powers, 
and will inform them, also, how the change is to be 
effected. To this day," the memorial says, " the 
means of consumption, or of obtaining the necessaries 
of life, by the working classes, have been acquired solely 
through the medium of their labour, the value of which 
the new power has already much diminished. And 
the certain consequences of the undirected progress 
of this power will be to reduce the value of manual 
labour, until it falls below the means of procuring a 
wretched subsistence for any large proportion of the 
working classes, while the remainder of them must be 
starved out of existence. Such is the nature of the 
contest, which has already continued for some time, 
and which now exists in full activity, between scien- 
tific power and manual labour ; between knowledge 
and ignorance ; but no one who comprehends any- 
thing of the subject can for one moment doubt the 

The character and condition of the time must here 
be taken into account. Exhausting wars had been 

His Trip to the Continent, 187 

carried on throughout Europe for more than a quarter 
of a century. Thousands of human lives had been 
sacrificed, and millions of money spent. Everything 
had been unsettled, whilst nothing had been per- 
manently restored. During this time an enormous 
mechanical power had been developed and applied in 
Great Britain through a most fortunate concurrence 
of inventions, and by the security our insular position 
afforded. The first effect of this was to over-supply 
existing markets before new ones could be discovered, 
and hence a displacement of manual labour and a 
sudden increase of suffering among the masses of 
the people. This naturally led to discontent. While 
Owen was employed on his memorials, in England 
they were hanging Luddite rioters, and the Peterloo 
Massacre was only a few months distant. 

The yet unsolved difficulty of how to turn the new 
mechanical producing power to the best account in 
the interest of society had scarcely been looked at 
except by Robert Owen. 

It would, perhaps, be going too far to say that 
Robert Owen was right in all his speculations as to 
the true causes of the misery of the people ; nor is it 
necessary to insist that he was absolutely correct in 
all the methods of reform he recommended. It may 
be claimed for him, however, that what he discovered 
to be wrong in the operations of our industrial system, 
as carried on in his day, was fairly and perseveringly 
investigated, and temperately and practically brought 
under the attention of those whose duty it was to 
correct it. And it is but the simplest truth to assert, 
that before he suggested anything, he carefully made 
his experiments, so that his recommendations might 


1 88 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

be sustained by proof. His appeals were not made 
to the people, with the view of forcing the reforms 
he advocated, by rousing their passions or by reliance 
on the fears popular anger might excite. He ap- 
pealed to those who were doing the wrong, that they 
might understand the danger they were incurring ; and 
he appealed to the Government, that, as a matter of 
public policy, such regulations might be enforced as 
would secure the country against the evils to which 
he pointed. He was the first man who, with any 
comprehensive grasp of the subject, insisted that the 
relations of labour and capital should be thoroughly 
examined with a view to their rectification. The 
methods of improvement suggested by him in regard 
to the factory system have had to be followed, and 
the changes that have been effected by years of agita- 
tion, were what, at the commencement, he asked our 
law-makers to sanction. 


©petations in OLon&on— ©wen's position* 

In the April of this year (1819) Robert Owen issued 
his first appeal to the working classes, in an address 
published in the Star newspaper. In referring to 
those who were declaring that, though true in theory, 
his proposals were not practicable, he said this meant 
no more than that those who came to this conclusion 
were unable to reduce them to practice, — they hastily 
decided without sufficient data, and "would have 

operations in London, — Owen's Position. 189 

made the same random assertions respecting any of 
the great improvements in science prior to their 
introduction. Such individuals forget that it is a 
modern invention, to enable one man, with the aid of 
a little steam, to perform the labour of a thousand 

It is noticeable that in this address there is not any 
touch of the demagogue. The oppressions of the 
people, as an outcome of power tyrannically used, are 
not alluded to, nor is there reference to any question 
that might in an angry spirit excite "class against 
class." On the contrary, his first plea is for mutual 
toleration. " You have been filled," he says, " with all 
uncharitableness, and have in consequence cherished 
feelings of anger towards your fellow-men who have 
been placed in opposition to your interests. These 
feelings of anger must be withdrawn before any being 
who has your real interest at heart can place power in 
your hands. You must be made to know yourselves, 
by which means alone you can discover what other 
men are. You will then distinctly perceive that no 
rational ground for anger exists, even against those 
who, by the errors of the present system, have been 
made your greatest oppressors and your most bitter 
enemies. An endless multiplicity of circumstances, 
over which you had not the smallest control, placed 
you where you are, and as you are. In the same 
manner, others of your fellow-men have been formed 
by circumstances, equally uncontrollable by them, to 
become your enemies and grievous oppressors. In 
strict justice, they are no more to be blamed for these 
results than you are, nor you than they ; and, splendid 
as their exterior may be, this state of matters often 

190 LifCy Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

causes them to sufiFer even more poignantly than you. 
They have therefore an interest, strong as yours, in 
the change which is about to commence for the equal 
benefit of all, provided you do not create a more 
formidable counteracting interest on their parts, of 
which the result must be to prolong existing misery, 
and to retard the public good." 

He goes on to tell them, that if they cannot com- 
prehend the truth of this doctrine of circumstances, 
the time has not come for their deliverance. " Had 
the upper classes been permitted to discover what 
human nature really is, they would have known long 
ago that by being raised, as it is termed, to the 
privileged ranks, they are placed in circumstances 
which render their successors, except by some extra- 
ordinary chance, increasingly useless to themselves 
and to society." They are, he says, " trained from 
the cradle to take pride in themselves for pursuing 
measures which deprive the great mass of mankind 
of the most essential benefits that belong to human 
nature, in order that they, a most insignificant part in 
point of numbers, may be distinguished by advan- 
tages over their fellows. The feelings," he continues, 
" which this absurd conduct generates throughout 
society, keep the whole population of the world in a 
lower degree of enjoyment and rationality than most 
of the animal creation. They are the very essence of 
ignorant selfishness." 

There is neither hesitation nor compromise in these 
words ; but disbelieving, as he did, in the efficacy of 
anger or violence, he adds : — " The privileged classes 
of the present day throughout Europe are not influ- 
enced so much by a desire to keep you down, as by an 

operations in London. — Owen's Position. 191 

anxiety to retain the means of securing to themselves 
a comfortable and respectable enjoyment of life. Let 
them distinctly perceive that the ameliorations which 
you are about to experience are not intended or 
calculated to inflict any real injury on them or their 
posterity, but, on the contrary, that the same measures 
which will improve you must, as they assuredly will, 
essentially benefit them, and raise them in the scale 
of happiness and intellectual enjoyment, and you will 
speedily have their co-operation to carry the contem- 
plated arrangements into effect/' 

In the state of parties then existing, such language 
as this displays an over-sanguineness of belief in the 
eflScacy of his plans, and it may be admitted that he 
was sanguine; but he had a certain groundwork of 
justification for this, which must not be overlooked. 
As has already been stated, his practical experiment 
had at this time attracted the attention of vast num- 
bers of people, a large proportion of whom were 
persons of position and influence. His eldest son, 
Robert Dale Owen, in his book, " Threading My 
Way," says, " I have seen as many as seventy persons 
in the building at one time. The number of names 
recorded in our visitors' book, from the year 1 8 1 5 to 
1825, was nearly 20,000," whilst at the time Owen's 
address to the working classes was penned, a com- 
mittee appointed to investigate and report on his plan 
for providing for the poor by the creation of industrial 
villages, contafned the names of the Dukes of Kent, 
Sussex, Bedford, and Portland ; the Archbishop of 
Canterbury ; the Bishops of London, Peterborough, 
and Carlisle; the Marquis of Huntly ; Lords Grosvenor, 
Carnarvon, Granville, Westmorland, Shaftes^bwx'^ ^ "^.tA 

192 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

Manners ; General Sir Thomas Dyce and General 
Brown, besides those of the following members of the 
House of Commons : — Messrs Smith, Ricardo, De 
Crespigny, Wilberforce, Joseph Butterworth, and Sir 
T. Baring. 

In this year also a committee was appointed by the 
guardians of the poor at Leeds, for the purpose of 
inquiring into the causes of the " present increase of 
pauperism," and " whether the existing evil, as to its 
causes, be of a complexion merely temporary, and 
may be supposed soon to right itself ; " or " whether 
it may not be prudent, in case the causes that induce 
the evil be permanent, to inquire into the best means 
of finding a more productive source of labour for the 
unemployed poor." This committee appointed a 
deputation to visit New Lanark, to examine and 
report upon the successful operations of Owen for 
improving the character and condition of the work- 
people. This deputation consisted of Mr Edward 
Baines, afterwards member of Parliament for the 
borough, and father of the present Sir Edward, a 
Dissenter ; Robert Oastler, father of Richard, so well 
known for his subsequent exertions on behalf of the 
factory children ; and John Cawood, a respected mem- 
ber of the Established Church. The first paragraph 
of their report runs thus: — " Mr Owen's establishment 
at Lanark is essentially a manufacturing establish- 
ment, conducted in a manner superior to any other 
the deputation ever witnessed, and dispensing more 
happiness than perhaps any other institution in the 
kingdom where so many poor persons are employed, 
and is founded on an admirable system of moral 
regulation." In regard to the education of the young, 

operations in London, — Owen^s Position. 193 

the report says : — " In the education of the children, 
the thing that is most remarkable is the general spirit 
of kindness and affection which is shown towards 
them, and the entire absence of everything that is 
likely to give them bad habits, with the presence of 
whatever is calculated to inspire them with good ones; 
the consequence is that they appear like one well- 
regulated family — united together by ties of the 
closest affection. We heard no quarrels, from the 
youngest to the eldest ; and so strongly impressed are 
they with the conviction that their interest and duty 
are the same, and that to be happy themselves it is 
necessary to make those happy by whom they are 
surrounded, that they had no strife but in offices of 
kindness." Of the boys and girls, from ten to seven- 
teen, it is said : — " These are all employed in the mill, 
and in the evening, from seven to half-past eight, 
they pursue that system of education to which their 
attention has, up to ten years of age, been directed in 
the day time." In regard to the adult population, the 
report adds : — " In general, they appear clean, healthy, 
and sober ; intoxication, the parent of so many vices 
and so much misery, is indeed almost unknown here. 
The consequence is that they are well clad and well 
fed, and their dwellings are inviting." At the time 
when, as Mr Sargant informs us, Owen was being 
shunned by his countrymen, and treated with "neglect, 
hatred, contempt, and all the ills that follow an ex- 
communicated man," for his attacks on religion, this 
Leeds deputation wrote of his service to religion in 
the following terms : — " The Scotch character has in 
it, no doubt, something that disposes to a more exem- 
plary observance of the Sabbath than is getv^x^.VVj \.o 


194 ^?/^> Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

be met with in England ; but this circumstance apart, 
it is quite manifest that the New Lanark system has 
a tendency to improve the religious character ; and so 
groundless are the apprehensions expressed, on the 
score of religion suffering injury by the prevalence of 
these establishments, that we accord with Mr Owen 
in his assertion, that the inhabitants of that place form 
a more religious community than any manufacturing 
establishment in the United Kingdom." The report 
continues : — " For this well-regulated colony, where 
almost everything is made that is wanted by either 
the manufactory or its inhabitants, no cursing or 
swearing is anywhere to be heard. There are no 
quarrelsome men or brawling women." 

The deputation, after describing the New Lanark 
establishment, expressed something like regret that 
the law and the necessity of obtaining public sanction 
were obstacles to such an attempt in the neighbour- 
hood of Leeds, but strongly recommended that 
something like Owen's plan should be applied to the 
orphan children. The success of his action at New 
Lanark, the interest taken in his proceedings in 
London, and the evidence of approval with which he 
was everywhere met, might induce a temperament so 
sanguine as his to hope for more than was realisable ; 
but, though an accurate estimate of probabilities is in 
all cases desirable, yet, with the encouragement he 
received from men who, had their zeal been equal to 
his own, might have secured the triumph of the 
reforms for which he strove, it is not surprising if his 
expectations outran the means of accomplishment. 
Mr Sargant's account of the way Owen was treated 
is ludicrously exaggerated, yet there was an activity 

His Correspondence with the Duke of Kent. 195 

of misrepresentation and depreciation which, being 
used for that purpose, in time prejudiced the general 
public against him. 


Ibf 5 Cotrespon&ence wf tb tbe Dufte of Ikent 

The book of Dr Henry Grey Macnab, physician to 
the Duke of Kent, and employed by him to visit and 
report upon the establishment at New Lanark, is 
perhaps the fairest in spirit and fullest in detail of 
any work written concerning Robert Owen. He 
examined carefully the ideas of Owen, and objected 
to what appeared to him unsound, with the result of 
obtaining explanations where differences in interpre- 
tation of terms and phrases had led to misunder- 
standings. Many of the utterances of Owen were 
not given with strict regard to the precise meaning 
of the words used. Indeed, seeing that his early 
education was limited in its range and brief in its 
duration, an exact and scholarly style was not to 
be looked for ; but allowing for this, his conversation 
was lucid, and in writing he expressed himself in 
plain and vigorous language. Dr Macnab was not 
prepared to admit that Owen's doctrine of the for- 
mation of character was absolutely true. He admitted 
that, considered generally, it was indisputable that 
language, religion, general habits, customs, and modes 
of thinking were due to surrounding influences acting 
on the young from birth up, but he believed in 
special thought and action being under tVve cov\xc\ ^1 

196 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

the individual will. A mere dogmatist at the head of 
a sect would not have permitted any alteration in 
the wording of what he had formulated ; but Owen 
authorised Dr Macnab to state, in explaining his 
views, that in the existing condition of society it 
would be sufficient "to regard as a truth that the 
characters of the generality of mankind are chiefly 
formed by the good or bad education they receive, 
and the circumstances in which they are placed." 
This, no doubt, appeared to him as a sufficient com- 
promise to secure co-operation for the attainment of 
the end he had in view, and this with him was always 
one of the most important of considerations. 

It was a rule with Robert Owen not to stand in the 
way of attainable good by insisting on unattainable 
conditions of action, — never to postpone what may be 
done, because all that is sought cannot be obtained at 
once. It is true that in explaining his principles, he 
never attempted to disguise or to suppress anything. 
Yet, however far-reaching his principles, he was ever 
ready to begin humbly, and to proceed step by step, if 
the small beginnings gave promise of success. He was 
quite willing to proceed *' bit by bit," provided that he 
was asked to do nothing contradictory or dangerous 
to his general plans. His success at New Lanark was 
the result of experiment following upon experiment 
over a long series of years, but the ground was always 
carefully prepared, and each experiment well thought 
out in principle and detail before it was commenced. 
When, however, he had to obtain the approval and 
help of others in all he planned and attempted, the 
case became altered, as success or failure depended 
on others rather than on himself. But he was not a 

His Correspondence with the Duke of Kent. 197 

bigoted, dogmatical, or reckless experimenter. What 
he sought was the hearty co-operation of earnest men, 
and to obtain this he was always willing to concede 
anything that might tend to the success of his pro- 
jects without compromising his principles. 

The Duke of Kent, who had made himself 
thoroughly acquainted with Owen's character, and 
who also caused the fullest and most searching 
inquiries to be made as to the nature of his pro- 
ceedings, appears to have treated him upon all occa- 
sions with unusual respect and confidence. Writing 
from Kensington Palace, i8th July 18 19, he says :— 

" I am happy to find that you have fixed the 
general meeting for the 26th, on which occasion I 
shall certainly endeavour to discharge the duties of 
the chair to the utmost of my poor abilities, and to 
satisfy you and your friends as well as the public 
that I have a most sincere wish that a fair trial 
should be given to your system, of which I have 
never hesitated to acknowledge myself an admirer, 
though I was well aware to set it going that we 
should have a great deal of prejudice to combat ; 
and that in order to make a beginning many points 
must necessarily be conceded. .... I think it right to 
mention that my illustrious friend and relative. Prince 
Leopold, goes to Scotland next month, and has pro- 
mised me faithfully to visit the establishment at 
Lanark. Were it not for my domestic engagements 
I should willingly do the same ; and I shall envy him 
his good fortune until I am able to accomplish it." 

On the 13th September, the Duke wrote to Owen 
a long letter concerning his income, his marriage, and 
expenditure, giving a number of detalVs., vcvqXm^vc^'^ 

198 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

plans for the future in regard to himself and his 
family, and concluding thus : — 

" I have now said enough of myself, and shall just 
add that I received a summons to attend your com- 
mittee on Thursday afternoon on my return from 
Oatlands, which gave me only an hour's notice, and 
therefore I was unable to comply with it. I rejoice 
to hear that so many persons of respectability are 
visiting New Lanark this year, to which number I 
should certainly have added myself but for my un- 
willingness to absent myself from the Duchess, and 
the impossibility of her undertaking the journey with 
me at present. I wish, however, that in addition to 
Sir William De Crespigny, some other members of 
the House of Commons, possessing equally philan- 
thropic feelings, but of the other political party, might 
be induced to do the same ; and this I mention with 
the view of Parliament taking up the matter seriously 
next session. At all events, I trust my illustrious 
relative, Prince Leopold, will not fail to fulfil his 
promise, in which case I am confident the result 
cannot fail of being most satisfactory to him." 

Writing from Kensington Palace again on the 2nd 
October, the Duke says : — 

" As to myself, you know how sincerely I am 
engaged in the cause, and if any measures are to be 
taken in Parliament with respect to it, which should 
render it indispensably necessary that I should be 
able to vouch for facts from having had ocular 
demonstration of them, I shall not hesitate — although 
we intend wintering in the west, in order that the 
Duchess may have the benefit of tepid sea bathing, 
and our infant that of sea air, on the fine coast of 

His Correspondence with the Duke of Kent, 199 

Devonshire, during the months of the year that are 
so odious in London — to post down to Scotland 
for the purpose ; and if the Duchess's health continues 
good, and there is no cause to render her travelling 
imprudent, I have no doubt but she will most readily 
accompany me. In the meanwhile, I am delighted 
to find that you have so many visits from individuals 
whose suffrages will be of importance ; the more your 
establishment is seen, the more I am convinced it 
must carry with it the full and entire approval of 
every benevolent heart. With regard to Dr Macnab 
I consider him as a kindred soul with your own, and 
am delighted to perceive that you appreciate him, as 
I thought you would. I long to see him on his 
return to hear a full report of his visit to you, as it 
was entirely undertaken at my suggestion ; and from his 
letters I perceive the result has been to render him 
quite enthusiastic as to what you have accomplished, 
and what he foresees may be accomplished if once we 
can succeed in carrying the public opinion with us. 
Wishing you health to continue your zealous exertions 
for the good of mankind, I beg to subscribe myself, 
with sentiments of friendship and esteem, my dear sir, 
yours faithfully, EDWARD." 

I shall give one more communication of His Royal 
Highness. It shows how very zealous he was in the 
interest of the masses of the working people, how 
open in his communications, and how cordial and 
friendly with Owen personally : — 

" Kensington Palace, 31J/ October 18 19. 

** My dear Owen, — Having been absent four days 
on a visit to the coast of Devonshire to ftx w^oxv -^ 

200 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

house where we could cheat the early part of the 
approaching winter, I did not receive till late on 
Thursday night your favour of the 19th, since which 
I have been so overwhelmed with business as scarcely 
to have been able to find a moment to devote to you ; 
I will not, however, suffer to-morrow's mail to depart 
without just answering your kind and interesting 

" I was delighted to perceive you had the visit of 
General Desseaux, and I look forward with pleasure 
to hear him converse upon your establishment. Pray 
express to Lady Mary Ross, whose brother, Lord 
Robert Fitzgerald, is a particular friend of mine, how 
grateful the Duchess and myself feel for the kind offer 
of her house in your vicinity in case we should be 
enabled to pay you a visit during the period of her 
absence in South Britain ; but as there is an absolute 
necessity that the Duchess should take tepid sea 
baths in the first instance at Sidmouth, which have 
been strongly advised by her medical attendant, to 
strengthen her health after her confinement and 
nursing, I fear, with every wish on both our parts to 
do so, we shall not be able to avail ourselves of it, at 
least for the present year. 

" At the same time, I cannot deny that your 
tempting offer would be a strong inducement to 
undertake the journey were we not so circumstanced 
at present as to preclude almost the possibility of 
thinking of it. But though this pleasure must be 
deferred, I by no means think of giving it up. On 
the contrary, I look forward with pleasure to realising 
it at a future day. I congratulate you upon having 
had a visit from some of the particular friends of Mrs 

His Correspondence with the Duke of Kent, 201 

Fry, as I am sure they can only have gone to New 
Lanark with motives of benevolence. I think it also 
extremely fortunate that the celebrated Mr Ellis, of 
Kent, has determined upon viewing your establish- 
ment in person ; for it is the opinion of such valuable 
men as he is which, if favourable, must give strength 
to the cause. Lord Torrington, who is to accompany 
him, is certainly a very worthy, well-meaning man, 
but I am afraid you will not find the judgment that 
you will in his travelling companion. However, it is 
a satisfaction to find that one nobleman has thought 
it worth his while to undertake the journey; and I 
hope his example will be followed by a great many 
more, being satisfied that nothing can tend so much 
to establish a conviction of all the good that may 
result from forming establishments upon your prin- 
ciples as ocular demonstration. And I say this with 
the more feeling, being strongly impressed, like you, 
with the belief that the change contemplated for the 
relief of the suffering poor of the country must indeed 
be made more speedily and generally than many seem 
to anticipate, if the object is to restore the country to 
a state of order and tranquillity before it is too late. 

" My only fear is that ministers, having chosen 
to draw the sword, will turn a deaf ear to the repre- 
sentations of those who, from motives of benevolence, 
like yourself, and viewing the matter with unbiassed 
judgment, would adopt measures of a totally different 
tendency. It may be right to apprise you that I 
recently received the enclosed papers from Mr Bourne, 
who certainly is a most zealous and active member of 
the committee, but, after having so long adjourned 
our meetings, I should like to have your opinion upon 

202 Life, Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

his suggestions before we act upon them. Pray write 
by return of post, your doing which will, I apprehend, 
enable me to hear from you on the 9th, or at latest 
on the loth of November ; and in the meanwhile, 
believe me ever to remain, with the most friendly 
regard, my dear Owen, yours faithfully, EDWARD." 

The Duke presided as chairman of the London 
general committee on the first of December 1819, 
and died with unexpected suddenness on the 23rd 
of January 1820. This was a loss as serious as it 
was unexpected to Owen. Mr Sargant* thinks that 
by his sudden death the Duke was rescued from the 
" odium which he was incurring as the zealous advo- 
cate of views grossly tainted with infidelity, and 
saved from that contempt which the unthinking world 
is apt to bestow on Utopian schemes earnestly pur- 
sued." Owen's schemes at this time concerned the 
regulation of labour in the factories of the country ; 
the establishment of industrial villages for the im- 
provement of the condition of the poor, and for 
bettering the position of the working classes generally, 
and both these objects may have been Utopian. As 
a security for the peace of these villages, he con- 
demned those old responsibilities for religious belief 
which had caused so much persecution ; but this 
can hardly be regarded as gross infidelity, for which 
the Duke of Kent would have incurred " odium " and 
"contempt." In a country like England, where 
freedom of thought is an inheritance, and where new 
industrial developments were at the time referred to 
producing the misery they ought to have been in- 

* " Robert Owen aivd his Philosophy," p. 158. 

His Correspondence ivith the Duke of Kent, 203 

strumental in preventing, to say this raises a suspicion 
that Mr Sargant partakes largely of the spirit that 
visits with the penalty indicated efforts honestly made 
in the interest of those who suffer through ignorance 
and want. 

Mr Sargant says that, after the death of the Duke 
of Kent, " Owen was left without any prominent 
disciples in England." Yet when the "British and 
Foreign Philanthropic Society" met in the June of 
1822, at the Freemasons* Hall, Great Queen Street, 
the following names appeared on the list of vice-presi- 
dents : — His Excellency Count De Lieven, Russian 
Ambassador ; Viscount De Chateaubriand, French 
Ambassador; Don Luis de Onis, Spanish Minister; 
Baron De Werther, Prussian Minister ; Richard Rush, 
American Minister ; Baron De Stierneld, Swedish 
Minister ; Count De Ludolf, Sicilian Minister ; Count 
St Martin D'Aglie, Sardinian Minister ; Baron Langs- 
dorf. Resident Minister for Baden and Hesse ; M. De 
Moraes Sarmento, Charge d'Affaires, Portugal ; the 
Right Honourable the Earl of Lonsdale, Earl of 
Blessington, Lord Archibald Hamilton, Lord Viscount 
Torrington, Lord Viscount Exmouth, Lord Nugent, 
Due de Broglie, Baron de Stael, and John Randolph, 
Esq., Virginia, U.S. The acting committee for the 
year 1822 contained the names of fifteen members 
of Parliament. A list of subscriptions and loans ap- 
pended to a report of a meeting of this society, held 
on the 1st of June 1822, includes the following: — 
A. J. Hamilton, ;^S,ooo ; James Morrison, ;^5,ooo ; 
John Smith, M.P., ;^i,2So; George Smith, M.P., 
£62^\ Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, ;^25o; J. M. Morgan, 
;^SOO ; Sir Charles Grey, Bengal, ;^5oo ; Geo. D^.^N^Qrcv 

204 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

M.P., ;^2So; Henry Jones, Devon, ;£"5,ooo; General 
Brown, London, ;^i,25o; M. Rothschild, London, 
;^25o; Mrs Rathbone, Liverpool, ;^i,ooo; Anthony 
Clapham, Newcastle, ;^i,ooo ; W. Foster Reynolds, 
;^SOO; Robert Owen, New Lanark, ;^ 1 0,000; William 
and Joseph Strutt, Derby, ;^5,ooo. The list of 
smaller sums is a long one. Altogether, over ;^5 5,000 
was subscribed. 

These subscriptions were not called in, as the above 
sum was not sufficient for the commencement of an 
experiment such as was contemplated. There was 
nothing proved by this effort except that Robert Owen 
had a large number of enthusiastic friends, who were 
interested in the success of his plans, and who offered 
to subscribe liberally in order that a well-considered 
experiment might be made. But they were not 
numerous enough to subscribe the amount needed, 
and were therefore compelled to abandon an attempt 
which, between that period and the introduction 
of the Poor Law Amendment Acts, might, if fairly 
successful, have saved the owners of property many 
millions sterling which had to be paid in consequence 
of a maladministration of the poor laws. 


1bf5 S)f5po5ftfon an& public XCeacbfna^ 

Robert Owen was over strong in his belief that 
truth spoken out frankly, in the interest of those to 
whom it was addressed, must in the end command 

His Disposition and Public Teaching, 205 

acceptance and support. He did not make sufficient 
allowance for habit, prejudice, self-interest, individual 
ambition, and a multitude of minor but nevertheless 
powerful influences by which men are moved. He 
saw the success he had achieved in New Lanark, shut 
in with his people from the world and its ordinary 
influences. His own influence there was predominant, 
and it was felt by the people to be wisely exercised. 
His plans might not always have been understood, 
but his motives could not be called in question, while 
the results were always beneficial to the people and 
profitable to the employers. 

He did not achieve success through a series of 
blunders that brought suffering or loss to others ; on 
the contrary, every step was successful, so much so 
that mistakes in management, such as would have 
interfered with commercial success, were never alleged 
against him. The disputes through which he had to 
separate from his three sets of partners were chiefly 
as to the methods of appropriating profits. The 
first two sets believed that too much was done for the 
workers at their expense, while the last set, as repre- 
sented by William Allen, made the conflict one of aq 
interference arising out of a prejudice and self-opinion 
which could not but be fatal to Owen's plans. 

Owen did not abandon the good work he was 
engaged in at New Lanark in consequence of any 
ambitious desire to become a public teacher, but when 
his partners not only supported William Allen, but 
also sent a teacher to his schools that this opposition 
might have practical effect, he could not remain. 
Besides, coincidently with this, the attempts made in 
London by the Philanthropic Society Kad bx^cbVe^ 

2o6 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

down. The necessary money could not be obtained, 
and therefore the only hope that could reasonably 
exist in his mind, was that the working people might 
be induced to take the matter up for themselves, if 
they could be brought to understand the evils from 
which they were suffering, and to exert the power they 
possessed to apply the proper remedy. 

At this point in his career, two courses were open 
to him, — either to retire, and live in ease and compara- 
tive luxury on the fortune he had made ; or to enter 
on a work of public teaching, with the view of bring- 
ing the working portion of the population to share his 
convictions, and causing them to take an active part 
in the working out of their own regeneration. When 
asked, subsequently, why he decided to abandon the 
tranquillity of private life for the trouble and calumny 
attending an active warfare against established in- 
justice, he replied, that whatever the blessings of 
retirement, he felt he could not live simply for himself; 
he knew, he said, from what needless miseries the 
poor suffered, and thinking of these would make 
happiness impossible to him, unless he laboured to 
make them less. 

When he retired from New Lanark, it was not to 
rest, but to work in one of the most painful situations 
a man unused to public warfare could occupy. The 
people — the poor who suffered — did not understand 
him ; and though he had among them many devoted 
adherents, all the support and encouragement they 
could give him was as nothing to the abuse, misrepre- 
sentation, and opposition that came from those who 
regarded him as an enemy to society, for the reason 
that he protested against the continuance of a system 

His Disposition and Public Teaching, 207 

which condemned the masses of the people to poverty, 
ignorance, and sufiFering ; as well as from considerable 
numbers of persons who looked on him as an enemy 
to religion, because he denied the voluntary nature 
of belief, and condemned the discords and persecu- 
tions that originated in the acceptance of an idea 
which he considered a gross and mischievous error. 

It is generally believed that he was not sufficiently 
equipped at all points for such a combat as he 
challenged when he entered the field, and this to a 
certain extent is true. He understood his general 
principles with singular clearness. He had made 
himself thoroughly familiar with the evils against 
which he contended, and no man could deal better 
with the objections that were generally made to his 
proposals. His manner was manly, straightforward, 
and dignified. What the late Lord Brougham (then 
Mr Henry Brougham) said of him in the House of 
Commons, in the debate on Sir William De Crespigny's 
motion for inquiry into Owen's plans, in the December 
of 1820, was strictly correct : — " Of Mr Owen, he did 
not hesitate to state his conviction that a more honest, 
amiable, and simple-minded man was not to be found 
on the face of the earth. He was indeed a rare 
character, for, though a projector, he was candid to a 
degree that he (Mr Brougham) could not have be- 
lieved had he not himself had personal experience 
of that candour. Let a person treat his projects as 
severely as he pleased, Mr Owen was never irritated, 
never offended, because truth only was the object he 
had in view." 

He needed all this candour and calmness to carry 
him through the trial before him. Such couftvcts. -aa 

2o8 LifCy TimeSy and Labours of Robert Oiven, 

he was entering on had always been fought without 
much regard for candour or forbearance on any side, 
and with an overabundance of charges and proofs iii 
which truth was not the first or principal considera- 
tion. Beyond all things, Owen sought to avoid making 
angry charges, and the heaping of blame on the heads 
of those who might defend existing abuses. He had 
a horror of such a mode of warfare, as alike unjust 
and ineffectual. He hated retaliations of evil, because 
he believed that most of the wrong men did to each 
other was done through ignorance and misunder- 
standing, not from evil intention, and therefore that 
angry condemnations were to be avoided above all 
things by those who took upon themselves the work 
of reform. In fact, he regarded the chief part of the 
law-making, law-breaking, law-enforcing business of 
the world as a kind of inevitable Walpurgus revel, 
that must be continued until men saw their way to a 
wise education of the young, and to such an equitable 
distribution of the fruits of the country's industry as 
would secure all from " want or the fear of want," and 
thus check an over-eager and injurious pursuit of 
individual gain, and, at the same time, tend to remove 
the many temptations to crime arising from poverty, 
ignorance, and evil example. 

For some years before Owen left New Lanark, and 
for many years afterwards, the state of England, 
considering the means at the disposal of those whp 
governed its affairs, was most deplorable. There was 
division and strife arising out of vexatious inter- 
meddling with freedom of worship. There was an 
active fermentation of political discontent among the 
masses of the people, in consequence of an irritating 

His Disposition and Public Teaching, 209 

and obstinate denial of political justice, partially 
checked by the Reform Act of 1832. There was also 
a widespread poverty, which created demands on 
property through the poor-laws, which were rapidly 
depriving land of its value, and thus dragging its 
owners into complications of distress from which 
they saw no means of escape. In addition, there was 
a vigorous demand for a free and untaxed press, and 
for a further extension of popular rights than had 
been obtained in 1832; and an increasing agitation 
for a repeal of the corn laws, sustained by cries of 
suffering from the masses of the people. These things 
were liable at any moment to occasion acts of revolt 
against the authority of Government, such as might 
have taxed its strength and resources to the uttermost. 
Owen's principles were principles of peace. They 
could only be thought out or worked out apart from 
excitement and violence. Popular excitement was 
calculated- to in every way hinder the progress it was 
his most' Earnest desire to make. For this reason, if 
for no other, he was a steadfast and determined enemy 
to violence, and hence the publications first put forth 
by those who gathered round him take for granted, 
not the impossibility perhaps, but certainly the folly, 
of attempting the work Owen had outlined otherwise 
than in a spirit of peace and regard for the interest of 
all. The times were dangerous. Public anger was 
strong and widely spread ; the passions of the people 
easily moved ; and, as Owen's protests were directed 
against the evils that existed in the country, both social 
and political, he might have started an agitation that, 
vigorously conducted, would have aroused popular fury 
in every corner of the land. 


2IO Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

It ought to be remembered to Owen's credit, that he 
never lost an opportunity of condemning personal or 
class invective, and of impressing on the minds of his 
supporters that they were acting in opposition to his 
principles when they said or did anything in con- 
demnation of individual men. The work to be done 
was a positive work, a new foundation, and this he felt 
could not be effected by denunciation, by rousing 
prejudices, or by outstepping the bounds of peace or 
legality. He did not believe that the emancipation of 
the human race was not worth fighting for, but rather 
that there were other and far better ways of obtaining 
it, and that it was the people's duty to adopt these. 
Liberty of thought and speech was what he asked for, 
and this once granted, he never doubted that the 
accomplishment of desirable ends must follow. In 
this conviction he strove to secure liberty of speech, 
and to promote an activity in the direction of wise 
reform, such as would make free speech and free 
action in the interest of progress a foremost necessity 
among men. When through any indiscretion his 
followers got into trouble with the authorities, he 
maintained it was by acting in opposition to the well- 
understood policy and express instructions of the 
association and its directors. At a time of widespread 
popular discontent, and, it may be added, of real 
danger to the peace of the country, the Socialists of 
England considered it a duty to calm public excite- 
ment ; to explain the mi^akes by which misery and 
suffering were produced ; to devise and recommend 
remedies involving injury to no man or class of men, 
and free from conflict with any political party. 

Visits Holkham, and stands for Parliament. 2 1 1 


It)i5it5 Ibolftbam, an& 5tan&5 for parliament* 

Owen's life, as already stated, derives its chief interest 
from his continuous efforts to permanently improve the 
condition of the masses of the people. It has been 
alleged that he theorised and talked too much, and this 
can, with some plausibility, be supported by reference 
to his plans, if at the same time due reference be 
omitted to the practical work he performed in order 
to test his ideas. 

The subject he undertook to deal with, was difficult 
to understand thoroughly without ample time for 
experiment ; it was so vast in its connection with 
various conditions of human life, and the way in which 
human happiness could best be promoted by im- 
proved education, and by a better treatment of the 
working population of the country. His theories in 
regard to education, and the conduct of business, were 
formed on the observation and study of his early life ; 
and his many years of practical labour, and the proof 
derived from this, left no doubt in his mind that a 
most important work for the improvement of society 
might be entered on at once. In this belief, he set 
himself to convince the public that no time should be 
lost if society were to be saved from the ignorance, 
poverty, and misery then afflicting it almost beyond 
endurance. It can hardly be brought as a charge 
against Owen, that, after practically testing his ideas, 
he was anxious to produce in the minds of others the 
conviction that existed in his own, though \tv ?>\x\nvw^ 

212 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

to do so he did not escape the rash and uncharitable 
judgments of the cheaply virtuous ; indeed, it is 
curious to observe with what bitterness some of those 
who have dealt with his public proceedings have 
assailed him. Vanity, love of notoriety, quackery, 
hatred of religion, allied to a kind of diseased bene- 
volence, are stated to be his most prominent charac- 
teristics, by writers from whose professions of liberality 
something more in accordance with truth and candour 
might have been expected. 

From the time Robert Owen left New Lanark up to 
the time when he became actively engaged in forming 
and arousing public opinion, his work seems to have 
been preparatory rather than progressive. He visited 
Holkham, by invitation of Mr Coke, and spoke at a 
meeting of agriculturists. His speech, when his health 
had been drunk, was condensed and to the point. 
After thanking the company for the honour done him, 
he " regretted that he had been destined to differ 
essentially in principle from gentlemen for whom he 
entertained the highest regard and most sincere 
friendship ; but as he conscientiously differed from 
them, and knew there could be no advantageous 
intercourse between any parties when differences 
could not be freely expressed, he should, as an act 
of imperative duty, which he felt himself called on 
to perform, state wherein his sentiments concerning 
public distress were not in unison with those of the 
gentlemen present. He could not be callous to the 
unwearied exertions of his honourable friend (Mr 
Coke), or to the praiseworthy attempts of many of 
the gentlemen present to reduce the public expendi- 
ture of the country within just and proper limits. 

Visits Holkham^ and stands for Parliament, 2 1 3 

Economy in the application of public funds would 
ever continue to be a most valuable principle to act 
upon, and, as such, it should at all times receive his 
approbation and support; but he could not agree 
with those gentlemen who thought that a reduction 
of our public expenditure, or a reform in the Commons 
House of Parliament, could, under the new and extra- 
ordinary circumstances in which this country and 
the world were placed, give us that prosperity we 
sought, or which the late improvements in machinery, 
opening a mine of inexhaustible wealth to all the 
inhabitants of the world, now so justly entitle us to 

In the above words Owen expresses that which, 
though true, stood much in his way as a reformer. 
He was strongly impressed with the belief that it 
was little better than waste of time to correct 
the evils of society by temporary expedients. He 
forgot that society was divided into sections of be- 
lievers in such expedients, and that he was placing 
such persons in opposition to him. It was certainly 
true that the settlement of the questions then before 
the country, could not relieve the people from what 
they were suffering, yet it is just as true that most of 
them were measures of justice, tending to promote 
good government and prepare the way for those 
bolder proposals that went more thoroughly to the 
root of the evil. He was friendly to economy in the 
expenditure of the public funds, and to reform in the 
House of Commons, but he offended those who 
specially championed these, and got credit for being 
an enemy rather than a friend. In this he made a 
mistake, as by so doing he lost the support of large 

214 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

numbers of men who would have gone heartily with 
him, had he — whilst approving of the work in which 
they were engaged — refrained from a depreciation of 
its value, and taken advantage of their friendliness to 
him, as a reformer, in obtaining their aid for pro- 
moting the work he himself had in hand. There is 
nothing truer than that retrenchment in expenditure 
and reformation in Parliamentary representation have 
done much good, but not of the kind or to the extent 
the people expected ; and it is certain that those who 
were most sanguine and unreasonable in their ex- 
pectations, have, in many cases, ceased to be reformers 
in consequence of their disappointments. This is 
unwise. Curtailment of an unwise and corrupt ex- 
penditure is a good in itself The extension of the 
suffrage is good in itself, because it sustains and 
carries forward the nation by the intelligence and 
efforts of the people, — not by a class of the people ; 
and this is but a preparation, perhaps a necessary 
preparation, before reforms such as those proposed 
by Owen, which require public spirit and public 
virtue to sustain them, can come generally into 
operation. At this Holkham meeting, after pointing 
out how a superabundance of everything required by 
the people might be obtained, he urged, in illustration 
of his argument, the management of the estate of his 
host, Mr Coke : — " He found the property, when he 
received it from his predecessor, a barren sandy 
waste, almost without cultivation or inhabitants, and 
the few of the latter which it contained were often 
fed with food imported from other soils and districts. 
It was rented at three shillings an acre, and the 
farmers m possession of it would not venture to give 

Visits Hoik ham, and stands for Parliament, 2 1 5 

five shillings an acre for the renewal of a long lease. 
At that time it might have been said of this beautiful 
domain that it was over-peopled, that there was such 
an excess of population that they could not be sup- 
ported from the soil, and that every addition to the 
number would be an evil, because they must either 
starve or emigrate. Is not this the language now 
applied by those who have great authority among us, 
whose opinions influence public affairs, when they 
describe the situation of the British empire ? and are 
the sentiments more just in the one case than in the 
other? I contend they are not, and that the British 
empire is, at this moment, the waste and wild that 
Holkham was; that it is equally destitute of the 
number of inhabitants that it is competent to support 
advantageously for the land, the landed proprietor, 
the freeholder, and the industrious part of the com- 
munity ; and to make this now suffering, complaining, 
and wretched country a second Garden of Eden, to 
enable it to support in high comfort a population five, 
nay, tenfold its present number, all that is necessary 
is closely to follow, as statesmen, the example of Mr 
Coke as a landlord and agriculturist. He found 
Holkham waste and wild, and the few inhabitants it 
kept, poor and ignorant. You now see what it is, — a 
domain unrivalled in many respects by any other in 
the world, and the inhabitants are increased sixfold, 
living in a degree of comfort that must delight every 
one who has examined their residences and enjoyed 
their good cheer, as many of us have done. Our 
statesmen have only to follow the example thus 
commenced. Let the subjects of the empire be 
governed with paternal kindness, such as we see 

2 1 6 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen. 

exercised here ; let them be instructed in valuable 
practical knowledge, as the tenants of this estate 
have been ; let their powers of activity sedulously 
have a full scope, as these have had, unrestrained by 
ignorant clauses and conditions which injure landlord 
and tenant ; let them be encouraged freely to expend 
their capital in substantial permanent improvement, 
or let it be expended by the landlord for them, as 
we hear has often been done here ; the proprietor re- 
ceiving ample interest for such expenditure, and then 
production will far outstrip any increase of popula- 
tion, or the wants of production ; but above all, let 
our legislators follow Mr Coke's example in allowing 
the producers of his wealth to have a fair and liberal 
proportion of that which they create." 

A long speech by Robert Owen in explanation of 
his principles, would have been out of place at such a 
gatl^ring as the one at Holkham. The position was 
most interesting. Owen, at Lanark, had proved what 
could be done on behalf of the factory-workers of the 
country, were the factory-owners disposed to take a 
humane interest in the welfare of the people in their 
employment. He had made evident what mighty 
results for good could be brought about, if the improve- 
ment of the worker was accepted as an important 
part of the duty of the factory proprietor; and at 
this meeting he had to address country gentlemen 
and farmers in reference to an experiment connected 
with the land. An intelligent, public-spirited, and 
humane man had not only improved his land up to 
a condition in which it supported its own inhabit- 
ants, which it had not done before, but had increased 
these sixfold, at the same time adding to the wealth 

Visits Holkkam, and stands for Parliament, 2 1 7 

and comfort of the people to an extent almost 
incredible. Two experimenters, one in manufacturing 
industry, and one on the land, had given an example 
to the country and its Government, which if followed 
in regard to agriculture and manufacture, might have 
saved the nation much of the painful experience it 
has since gone through. 

It ought to have been mentioned that two years 
previous to this (18 19) Owen offered himself as 
candidate for the representation of the Lanark burghs 
in Parliament. His address to the electors contrasts 
curiously with such documents as are now usually 
addressed to voters on the eve of an election. There 
is not a word in it as to specific demands of any kind. 
He held strong views in regard to the corn laws ; but 
at that time the manufacturers of the country were 
not free-traders, and therefore there was no public 
opinion to which he could appeal in favour of the 
abrogation of these laws. Five years after this an 
attempt was made to allow the makers of machinery 
to export to foreign countries, and to permit the 
artisans who constructed machinery to seek employ- 
ment in foreign lands, but both these objects were 
defeated through an opposition led by the Manchester 
Chamber of Commerce. There was little or no poli- 
tical commotion beyond what had its root in the 
deep distress of the working classes in the manufac- 
turing districts. The " Manchester Massacre " was 
occasioned by a demonstration of the working people, 
filled with discontent in consequence of their suffer- 
ings, and believing that if they possessed political 
power they could change the law so as to improve 
their condition. The constituencies in 18 19 were 

2 1 8 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

little more than a name — a few people whose right of 
voting was nearly always used for the great proprietors. 
In his address Owen explains his motives for coming 
forward, rather than his views on any political subject. 
One paragraph runs thus : — " The country is in dis- 
tress ; the labour of the working classes is reduced 
to the value of bare existence by the rapid and 
extensive introduction of machinery and other scientific 
power, by which the old proportion between produc- 
tion and consumption is entirely destroyed." He 
then refers to the study he had given to the subject 
with a view to preventing the threatened evil conse- 
quences. " These," he says, " are the motives which 
urge me to desire a seat in the House of Commons, 
and I should greatly prefer receiving it from the 
district in which I have resided the last twenty years. 
You know now my pretensions, and I wish not to 
deceive you in any respect ; I have no patronage ; I 
expect none ; for, whoever may be in power, I will 
not ask a private favour for myself or others. If, 
under these circumstances, you believe my services in 
the House of Commons can be of public utility, I 
shall be gratified by your support." He was not 
returned, but this he seems to have counted on, in 
consequence of certain pledges given to another 
candidate before it was known he intended to stand. 
He had no parliamentary ambition, and though he 
allowed himself to be nominated for Marylebone, 
between twenty and thirty years after, it was for the 
purpose of addressing the electors, and not with any 
intention of going to the poll. 

Visits Ireland and A rnerica. 219 


It)i5it5 5telan& an& Hmetica* 

Owen visited Ireland in 1822 in consequence of the 
deplorable condition of the people, who had passed 
through one of their periodical famines. He care- 
fully examined into the state of the country, and 
held meetings at the Rotunda in Dublin, and at 
certain of the large towns in the provinces. He also 
consulted with considerable numbers of the Irish 
aristocracy, as well as with the Catholic and Protestant 
hierarchy. He visited Maynooth, and stated his 
views to a meeting of the authorities and others in 
that establishment, and finally he reported on the 
condition of the country generally. Those under 
whose government it was had no notion of advising 
or doing anything practical with a view to its per- 
manent relief 

At this time, what are now called the measures of 
Catholic relief were a subject of violent contention in 
and out of Parliament. Anything approaching to 
reasonable thought in connection with religious tolera- 
tion did not exist in Ireland on the part of the 
dominant faction, and naturally the masses of the 
people and their leaders hated very heartily the 
Government and the bigoted faction by which they 
were oppressed. Instead of being a land of "settled 
government," Ireland was full of strife — religious and 
political. No proposal for the welfare of the people 
could be carried out where the co-operation of the 
two sections into which the people were divided was 

220 Life^ Times y and Labours of Robert Owen, 

impossible, and where mutual suspicion was so intense 
that whatever one party proposed or supported the 
other was sure to distrust and oppose. No duty was 
mutually understood as a common necessity, and 
nothing, however needed or well intended, could be 
suggested or entered on without leading to party 

But the worst part of the business was, that distress 
of the most shocking kind was, in the nature of things, 
of frequent occurrence ; and before anything could be 
done to permanently overcome a difficulty so fatal, it 
was necessary to entirely change the character of the 
land laws. In a matter of such consequence and such 
pressing necessity, Owen was altogether powerless. 
There was at that time no public opinion in England 
in regard to the Irish land laws, whilst in Ireland the 
burning question of the day was one of religious 
toleration, of political power to be obtained by 
Catholic emancipation ; and so urgent was this as an 
immediate necessity, that what lay behind as desir- 
able for the political and social welfare of the country, 
had to be, if not overlooked, at least postponed until 
the religious equality of the people was secured. 

Even the least informed need not now be told how 
utterly iniquitous the system of landlord and tenant in 
Ireland was. The great bulk of the people lived on 
and by the land. Their occupations were agricul- 
tural, and a vast majority of them had to cultivate the 
land without any security in their holdings. A few 
months' notice only was required to remove the cul- 
tivator from his home and his few acres, should the 
landlord will it, and to this end the whole civil and 
military force of Ireland was available, being in all 

Visits Ireland and A merica, 22 1 

times and seasons, at the landlords* disposal. The 
sad story of actual Irish evictions, and the dreadful 
sufferings by which they have been usually attended, 
is very old ; but these, bad as they were, were not the 
worst part of the picture of Irish misery. The people 
evicted died, or found their way to America or else- 
where as emigrants, and in time those who escaped 
with life found in their new homes more hospitable 
shelter than their own country afforded. The evicted 
were those who either failed to pay exorbitantly 
advanced rents, or who resisted in any way the 
dreadful exactions of the landlord. The masses of the 
tenants-at-will in the western, southern, and eastern 
provinces paid and remained, but were always strug- 
gling in a state of semi-starvation. 

The means of the cultivator to keep life in him and 
his, consists of what is left between what he obtains for 
his crop, and what it costs him in seed, labour, manure, 
and rent. It can be seen, therefore, that with a power 
on the part of the landlord to increase rent at will, 
nothing can be expected but that the people shall be 
kept in a condition of chronic poverty. Nourishing 
food was not to be obtained, and, at last, the worst kind 
of potato became the constant diet of the people. Of 
this even they had not sufficient ; and when it is 
remembered that the potato at best can only be 
regarded as fit for food during about nine months out 
of the twelve, it needs little reflection to understand 
that the people who depend on it must, as a matter of 
pure necessity, live continually on the verge of their 
graves. If all seasons were good, such a state of 
misery as this might be indefinitely prolonged ; but 
with failures of crop through any of the many cavis^?. 

222 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

that operate to produce them, death by hunger must 
inevitably follow, and hence death by hunger in Ire- 
land was a common and almost an everyday occur- 
rence, culminating periodically in famines. 

Against this Owen could do nothing. It required 
a thorough aaiendment of the land laws to adequately 
meet the requirements of the case, and this was not 
at that time even thought of by the British public. 
His public meetings were well attended, offers of help 
were made by some of the landlords who, as patriotic 
men, felt that something thorough should be at- 
tempted. Money subscriptions were offered, and had 
the public mind at the time been in a condition to 
enter on such a work, something might have been 
attempted ; but it is not going too far to say, that the 
application of Owen's plans could not, under such 
circumstances, have been carried out, and if attempted 
could scarcely have resulted in anything but failure. 

In the year following his Irish efforts, Owen visited 
the United States of America for the first time. In 
the year 1824 he purchased the estates of New Har- 
mony from the Rappites, with the view of making a 
practical experiment of his own plans on his own 
land, and under such conditions as he thought most 
favourable to success. Pending the necessary pre- 
liminary arrangements, he visited many of the leading 
statesmen of the great Republic, having previously 
made the acquaintance of some of them in London, 
in special that of John Quincy Adams, at one time 
Ambassador from the United States Government to 
the Court of St James's. Those friendly to him made 
efforts to have his views discussed by the Congress. 
His son, Robert Dale Owen, then a very popular 

Visits Ireland and A merica. 223 

member of that body, wished to bring the question 
forward, but Owen, having an offer of the same kind 
from John Quincy Adams, preferred to avail himself 
of it, knowing that much would be gained by a wise 
and careful handling of the matter by so experienced 
a statesman. " Mr Adams," he says, " advocated the 
subject with great ability and earnestness, but the 
motion wasJost, as anticipated, although the minority 
was large and respectable. And my object was 
gained, for even then the population of the Union 
was too undeveloped, and made too selfish by their 
false education, for a system true in principle and 
too pure in practice for dollars and cents to compre- 

This is true, but a man less zealous than Robert 
Owen, and more observant of the difficulties that lay 
in his way, would have seen this before he presented 
his proposals to Congress, or before he submitted 
them to the trial of a practical experiment. The 
Americans are fond of dollars and cents, and are 
actively and earnestly engaged in their acquisition. 
They live in a world where dollars, cents, pounds, and 
shillings are, as a rule, more highly estimated and 
more ardently desired than any other possession 
under heaven. The master-passion of the modern 
business man centres in these. The higher virtues of 
humanity are but ornaments, not absolutely necessary 
to life, though desirable when they can be attained 
without too much sacrifice. America is the country 
above all others where the hunters after money 
abound ; where the struggle for comfortable main- 
tenance and wealth is more exciting, and promises 
more success, than it does in any of the old 


224 J^tf^^ Titnes^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

countries of Europe. Nearly every man in America 
had some plan which he was pursuing, in the hope of 
realising what he desired ; and his chances of success 
being as a rule reasonable, prevented him from taking 
up plans like those of Robert Owen, which, however 
just, and however full of promise, were new and not 
easily understood, and therefore not likely to be 
attractive to those who had attained worldly success 
or who saw before them the prospect of attaining it 

Those most apt to respond to such a call as that 
made by Owen, when he attempted to found his New 
Harmony Colony, in Indiana, were more or less likely 
to help in the direction of failure. There were the 
over-sanguine, disposed to hope for more than could 
be at first realised, and who would be prone to lose 
heart if success were less or longer delayed than they 
imagined it should be. Then there were the odd 
men of special ideas, who float about and find it diffi- 
cult to fit in anywhere, through a habit they acquire 
of considering their merits and deservings beyond 
anything that may come to them as reward, especially 
if their rewards require hard and continuous labour. 
In addition to these there were the self-willed and 
ambitious, who abound everywhere, but who in such 
an experiment as that started at Indiana would have 
more play for their special faculty ; who seek to 
magnify their own virtues by depreciating those of 
others, who cannot become satisfied with anything 
but what they do themselves, and whose efforts 
usually give little satisfaction to anybody else. The 
best conditions that can exist leave difficulties to be 
surmounted of a most serious kind, — difficulties 
through lack of means, through faults of character. 

Visits the West Indies and South America. 225 

through want of the necessary experience. The 
American experiment was most certainly a mistake. 
Indeed, it is difficult to see how it could have brought 
forth satisfactory results, and its failure might be 
considered as a real gain to those who were anxious 
to see Robert Owen's opinions actively propagated 
throughout Great Britain. The best success that 
could have been accomplished by a practical experi- 
ment in Indiana, would have amounted to little more 
than an imperfectly understood fact, so far out of the 
way as to be of limited interest to those who heard of 
it ; while the propagandism opened up in England 
by the agitation which Owen subsequently conducted, 
led to discussions by which principles were formu- 
lated, and policies set on foot, of the utmost practical 
importance to the nation, in connection with the 
educational and social condition of the masses of the 
British people. 


IDisits tbe Mest 5nbies anb Soutb Hmetica* 

While in America, Robert Owen was treated by all 
parties with the most sincere marks of respect. He 
gave, by request, a course of lectures from the 
Speaker's chair in the room of the House of Repre- 
sentatives at Washington, — the Cabinet, the Senate, 
and the Judges of the Supreme Court of the United 
States being present. He afterwards lectured in 
several of the principal cities, and returned to Great 
Britain towards the end of 1825. 

226 Life^ Times ^ and Labotirs of Robert Owefi, 

In 1826 he again visited America, to deliver public 
lectures, and also with a view to the settlement of his 
family in that country. In 1824 he had, as already 
stated, purchased an estate from the Rappites, a colony 
of German Communists, who were about to abandon 
it for the purpose of settling on another of their estates 
more suitable for their purposes. In 1827 he once 
more returned to England, and in 1828 he went back 
to the United States, taking with him several members 
of his family, for though he did not intend to per- 
manently leave Great Britain, he had decided that 
America should be the future home of his children. 

While in England he was solicited by M. Roca- 
fuesti, the Mexican Minister in London, to apply to 
the Mexican Government (at the time a Republic) for 
the provinces of Cohahuila and Texas, with the view 
of trying one of his experiments. He did so, though 
it is difficult to see how such an acquisition could have 
been otherwise than embarrassing to him, whether he 
undertook its government or simply sought to establish 
a model colony. Several of the South American 
Ministers solicited him to undertake the work of 
colonisation in certain parts of South America. He, 
however, decided to apply for Cohahuila and Texas, 
and to this end he sent a memorial, by means of 
Rocafuesti, to the Government of Mexico, backed by 
letters of recommendation from a large number of 
influential persons, including one from the Duke of 
Wellington to Sir Richard Pakenham, British Ambas- 
sador at Mexico, soliciting his services in Owen's 
behalf He also had letters from the American 
Embassy in London to M. Poinsett, the American 
Minister at Mexico. 

Visits tite West Indies and South America, 227 

A month after forwarding his memorial and letters, 
he commenced his voyage to the West Indies, Vera 
Cruz, and Tampico. At Jamaica he fell in with Ad- 
miral Fleming, then in command of the West India 
station, who introduced him to the authorities of the 
island, invited the officers of the fleet to meet him at 
dinner, and requested him to say whether he could 
in any way help him to forward the object he had in 
view. Owen informed him that he had two difficulties 
which troubled him. He possessed abundant letters 
and recommendations to the authorities in Mexico, 
but he had none to the ecclesiastical dignitaries, — this 
being a very serious oversight in regard to such a 
country. Admiral Fleming, however, speedily relieved 
his anxiety on this head. He informed him that since 
the last revolution there was only the Bishop of Puebla 
remaining, and he was at the head of all ecclesiastical 
affairs. The Admiral knew him very well, having 
conveyed him from Old Spain to Mexico. He at 
once offered to give Owen a letter to the Bishop, and 
this was no doubt better than any recommendation he 
could have obtained in England. His other difficulty 
concerned the finding of a vessel at Vera Cruz, on his 
return from Mexico, to convey him to New Orleans, 
for the purpose of fulfilling an engagement he had to 
meet and discuss with a minister of religion named 
Campbell at Cincinnati on a given date. Travel- 
ling was not then what it has since become, and this 
second difficulty no doubt troubled him a good deal, 
lest his non-appearance at the appointed time should 
be attributed to an unwillingness to defend his ideas. 
Here again the friendly services of the Admiral 
relieved him. " It may be," he said, " that I c^xv "s^^tv^l 

228 Life^ Times ^ and Labotirs of Robert Owen. 

a ten-gun brig to Vera Cruz, to wait your return and 
convey you from there to New Orleans." This being 
arranged, Owen took his departure. 

The packet in which he sailed called at St Domingo 
with mails, and here he was also received with much 
warmth. In the true missionary spirit he distributed 
among the merchants several copies of his " New 
Views," and left the place much pleased with the 
kindness with which he had been treated. He made 
no delay at Vera Cruz, but on the morning after his 
arrival started for the city of Mexico, in a " litera " 
drawn by two mules, accompanied by two Mexican 
muleteers who were to conduct him to Xalapa. 

Travellers from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico 
remain some days at Xalapa, to accustom their lungs 
to breathe an atmosphere much lighter than that of 
Vera Cruz, and here Robert Owen found the Governor 
of Vera Cruz and several other travellers, and after 
four or five days he induced them to start for Mexico. 
Their hesitation in proceeding was caused through 
the Governor's known unfriendliness to the Govern- 
ment then existing in Mexico. To the surprise of all, 
on entering Perote they found themselves in the midst 
of General Santa Anna's army, and almost gave them- 
selves up as lost. " We are prisoners," they exclaimed, 
*' what shall we do ? " Owen told them to put a good 
face on the matter, to go at once to the General, and 
ask for an escort on account of the danger in proceed- 
ing unprotected. The question at once arose as to 
who should go, and Owen agreed to go himself, if no 
better person could be found. As soon as he had 
made this offer two others agreed to accompany him. 
''/ wdiS introduced," says Owen, "to the General as an 

Visits the West Indies and South America. 229 

Englishman going in haste to the city of Mexico on 
important business. He received me politely, and 
inquired my object. I said, * I am going in haste to 
the city of Mexico to communicate with the Govern- 
ment, and I wish an escort to Puebla.' * When will 
you want it ? ' * To-morrow morning at five o'clock.' 
'You shall have it.'" Seeing his frankness, Owen 
ventured to ask him where he would be about six 
weeks after that time. " I do not ask the question 
from idle curiosity, but I expect to be then on my 
return, and to have an important communication to 
make to you." " I shall then be at Xalapa," was the 
answer, " and will be glad to see you." An escort of 
six dragoons was ready at the time fixed, to take him 
safely to Puebla. What became of the Governor and 
his party he could not say, but supposes they retreated 
as rapidly as they could from Perote. 

Upon arriving at Puebla, Owen presented his letter 
of introduction to the Bishop, and had a long and 
interesting conversation with him. The Government 
at that time was considered Liberal, a word which 
meant opposition to ecclesiastical domination. The 
Bishop had suffered severely, and was under appre- 
hensions that he would be again attacked. His 
income, which had been $120,000, had been reduced 
to $80,000, and he was uncertain how long even that 
much would be left to him. He was the only bishop 
then remaining in Mexico, but he promised to use 
such power and influence as he still retained in 
Owen's favour, and it was arranged that they should 
meet again on his return from the city of Mexico. 
Owen considered it a curious circumstance that he 
should find himself in friendly communication with 

230 Life^ Times^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

one of the leading ecclesiastics of an intensely Roman 
Catholic country, for the purpose of introducing 
methods of education unfavourable to the system it 
was his business to uphold. 

In the city of Mexico he was domiciled with an 
Englishman named Exeter, a person of ability and 
influence. On the day of his arrival he presented 
his letters to Mr Pakenham, the British ambassador, 
who told him he had instructions to do what he could 
to forward his object with the Government. He 
promised to see the President of the Republic at once, 
and true to his promise arranged for an interview at 
twelve o'clock on the following day, ofifering in addi- 
tion to this his services as interpreter. 

Mr Pakenham told the President what had been 
done at New Lanark, and of the strong recommenda- 
tions Owen had brought with him, adding words of his 
own in praise of Owen. The President in reply said 
that his Government had, by the previous mail, received 
Owen's memorial, besides many letters of recom- 
mendation, couched in such terms that he and the 
members of the Government regretted they could not 
give him the government of the provinces of Cohahuila 
and Texas, because the governor was elected by the 
population of these provinces. He added, however, 
that the Government had reserved to itself the full 
jurisdiction over one hundred and fifty miles in breadth 
along the whole frontier between the United States 
and Mexico, from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, 
about two thousand miles in length, and that his 
Government, after due consideration, had come to the 
determination to offer the government of this district 
to lAr Owen, for him to establish within it his rule of 

Visits the West Indies and South America, 231 

peace. Owen says that this offer staggered him. He 
saw, however, at a glance, that there was one great 
obstacle, namely, that the Roman Catholic religion 
was the only religion permitted by law in the Republic, 
and nothing could be attempted in accordance with 
his plans where full civil and religious liberty did not 
exist. This statement being interpreted to the 
President, he replied, "We thought this would be 
made an objection by Mr Owen, and we are prepared 
to propose to the next congress to pass a law to place 
the religion of Mexico upon the same base of liberty 
as now exists in the United States of North America." 
When this was explained, Owen promised that when 
the law was passed he would accept the government 
of the extensive district offered to him. 

At the termination of this interview he was intro- 
duced to all the Mexican authorities, and to the four 
foreign ministers in the city, among whom was the 
American ambassador, Mr Poinsett. He remained 
between five and six weeks, and was treated by all 
with " kindness, attention, and hospitality." " I 
knew," he says, " that at the time there was a dis- 
agreeable, distrustful, and most unpleasant feeling 
between the British and United States Governments, 
and a consequent jealousy between the officials in 
the countries to which they were appointed as repre- 
sentatives. My great desire was to terminate this 
feeling, and to create a good understanding. On this 
subject Owen addressed himself to Mr Poinsett, telling 
him what he thought of the existing mistrust between 
the two Governments. That gentleman said he was 
aware that the position into which they had drifted 
was a false one. " As you see this subject in the 

232 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

same light as I have viewed it in," remarked Owen, 
" if you will give me letters to General Jackson and 
Mr Van Buren, your president and his secretary, 
expressive of these views, I will return home by 
Washington, and will see what I can effect between 
the two Governments." Mr Poinsett assented, and 
before Owen's departure placed the letters in his 


Owen left the city of Mexico, after having made 
arrangements with the Government to forward a 
measure for the establishment of absolute religx)us 
toleration. He had received a communication fTom 
Admiral Fleming, informing him that he had sent the 
ten-gun brig " Fairy," Captain Blair, to Vera Cmz, 
to wait his convenience, and to carry him to !New 
Orleans. On receiving this information, he set out 
on his return journey almost immediately. In ac- 
cordance with his promise, when he had reached 
Puebla, he waited on the Bishop, and was received ^y 
him in a most cordial and kindly spirit. Owen 
explained to him a project he had conceived of 
bringing the heads of the English Church and the 
Church of Rome into friendly relations with each 
other. This was really an impracticable suggestion ; 
but it shows the anxiety that existed in Owen's 
mind to promote brotherhood and peace. 

Tsi\dng leave of the Bishop of Puebla, he continued 

Mexico, 233 

his journey to Xalapa, to keep the appointment he 
had made with General Santa Anna. Here he found 
him in the midst of his army, and was at once 
admitted to his presence. " I told him," says Owen, 
" I had, written in manuscript, the principles and 
practices recommended, in the most condensed forms 
I could then put them ; and if he wished, I would bring 
them from my hotel at any time he would appoint, 
and we would consider them principle by principle, 
and point by point, in the practice." An early hour 
next morning was appointed for the meeting. When 
Owen arrived, he found the General attended by three 
intelligent-looking officers, who spoke English fluently, 
and the discussion was at once opened. 

Owen, whose mind was full of his subject, and 
whose pen was rapid in the expression of his thought, 
came prepared with twelve principles or sections of 
his subject, each requiring separate consideration. 
The discussion seems to have been carried on with 
much frankness, and it is said that the Republican 
general at its close declared himself satisfied with the 
correctness of Owen's views, and stated that whether 
he should be at the head of the army or of the 
government, Owen might count on his help in for- 
warding the project he had in hand. An invitation 
to dine with the General and his officers had to be 
declined, in consequence of Owen's eagerness to reach 
Vera Cruz, where the " Fairy " was waiting to convey 
him to New Orleans. His journey was expeditious, 
and, except that they had to encounter two severe 
north-westers, pleasant. On his arrival he started at 
once for Cincinnati, arriving three days before the date 
for which the discussion with Mr Campbell was fixed. 

234 ^^r Times, and LaB ours cf R:c€rt Chrem. 

The debate, which continiied for eight da\-s, morn- 
ing and evening, was no doubt interesting to those 
who took an interest in such contests. The general 
impression of those who heard it seems to have been 
that, in mere dialectical sldll, Mr Campbell had a 
considerable advantage over Owen, but that in solidity 
and force of argument, in the coherence and consist- 
ency of his ideas, as well as in regard to the practical 
value of what he had to say, Owen was immeasurably 
superior. It was a fixed idea with Oi^^en, that in 
all discussion the principal object should not be to 
attack the error put forward by an opponent, so much 
as to place the truth beside it, and trust to the force 
of truth for victory in the end. Error being multi- 
tudinous in its forms, and presenting so many points 
of attack, he regarded it a useless waste of time to 
attempt refutation by finding arguments that would 
expose its subterfuges and deceptions. 

It was frequently alleged against Owen's doctrine 
of the formation of character, that it was not in 
accordance with the literal meaning of the account 
given of the fall of man, and the consequent corrup- 
tion and innate sinfulness of human nature. On such 
occasions he never would attempt to prove that the 
account given of the disobedience in Paradise was 
false, or that it admitted of any other but the ordinary 
interpretation ; but he would insist that at birth, and 
from birth to maturity, the human creature might be 
spoiled by neglect, or improved by wise culture ; that 
ignorance and vice, or intelligence and virtue, might 
be propagated and made general by brutal neglect or 
judicious instruction ; and, as he always carefully 
put it, that the idea of educational duty v^as not 

Mexico. 235 

confined to the school, but should also be made the 
business of life out in the world. He was satisfied 
to trust to such effect as time might produce on those 
who heard what he had to say. He was, in fact, an 
expositor, rather than a controversialist ; and seeing 
that his efforts were not for immediate results, few 
men were so successful in drawing around him con- 
verts of a thoughtful and intelligent character. He 
complains that Mr Campbell, contrary to agreement, 
put a question to the audience for a vote as to whether 
they would continue to support Christianity, which, 
very properly, and as a matter of course, was carried. 
Owen, however, who had not addressed himself to 
such a question, and neither expected nor looked for 
such a vote, was in no way desirous for any decision 
but what the audience came to. He obtained what 
he informs us was the most he expected, as " through- 
out the whole of the long-continued disputation, he 
noticed that, day by day, the feelings of the audience 
were much with him." At such meetings much 
warmth of feeling is naturally to be looked for, but, 
to the credit of the people of Cincinnati, he says : — 
" I remained several days afterwards in Cincinnati to 
transact business, which occasioned me to pass daily 
from one extremity of the city to the other, and, 
considering the heterodox principles I had so openly 
advocated, it was surprising to me to experience the 
profound respect paid to me as I passed along the 

When the business that delayed Robert Owen at 
Cincinnati was concluded, he at once took his depar- 
ture for Washington, with the view of trying what he 
could do to promote a better understanding than ut^ 

236 Life, Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

to that time had existed between the Governments 
of the United States and Great Britain. On his 
arrival at Washington he proceeded at once to wait 
on Van Buren, the then Secretary of State, who had 
by Mr Poinsett's letters been prepared to listen 
favourably to what he had to say. He tells us that 
he "explained fully his view of the real interests of 
the two nations, and day by day for about ten days 
we met and talked over all the subjects of difference 
then existing between the two Governments, and I 
endeavoured to point out how easily, both parties 
being willing, the whole might be finally settled to 
the benefit of both nations.'* 

Mr Van Buren told him he had communicated his 
views to General Jackson, and that both were agreed 
as to the policy recommended. General Jackson, the 
President, sent an invitation for Owen to dine with 
him the next day, which he did, meeting Van Buren 
and several relatives of the President. After dinner, 
the rest of the company withdrew, leaving the 
President, Mr Van Buren, and Owen together. " Mr 
Owen," said the President, " your Government imagine 
I am opposed to them, but it is not so. I wish to be 
on friendly terms with them and the British nation, 
knowing how much the United States and Great 
Britain will be benefited by a well-understood cordial 
union ; and if your Government will fairly meet us 
half way, we will soon adjust all diflferences now 
between us." Owen replied that he thought the 
British Government would frankly meet America half 
way, and added the assurance that the British people 
would be favourable to a good understanding. 

This finished the diplomatic portion of their inter- 

Mexico, 237 


course. The President then entered familiarly into 
conversation with him on his home and foreign policy, 
often using words and phrases as nearly as possible 
the same as were used in his succeeding annual 
message. He arranged with Van Buren to give Owen 
letters of introduction to the United States Ministers 
in London and Paris, that they might consult with 
him, after he had seen and conferred with Lord 
Aberdeen, the then Foreign Secretary in England. 
When he returned to England, he asked and obtained 
an interview with Lord Aberdeen, explained fully to 
him what had taken place between himself and the 
President of the United States, informing him, at the 
same time, what he had ventured to promise as good- 
will on the part of the British Government and 
people. Lord Aberdeen said, " Mr Owen, I highly 
approve of what you recommend, and of what you 
have done. If the American Government will meet 
us half way, we will meet it in the same spirit." 
Owen explained that he had in his possession instruc- 
tions to the United States Minister from his Govern- 
ment to the effect that, if he found Lord Aberdeen 
willing, he was to enter at once into a negotiation for 
the settlement of all differences. " I am quite ready," 
said Lord Aberdeen, " to meet Mr M'Lane on these 
conditions." On leaving Lord Aberdeen, he visited 
the American Ambassador, gave him the instructions 
he had brought with him from the American Govern- 
ment, and a good understanding was established, which 
seems to have lasted till the Oregon question led to 
new misunderstandings. / 

The Mexican project came to nothing. The 
opposition raised to complete religious toleration was 

238 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

too great. Had everything Owen looked for bf 
conceded, it is difficult to believe that any attempo 
colonisation on a large scale could have been succei^ 
fully made. Land in any part of America was 0^ 
encumbrance rather than an advantage, and all th^ 
land that could be wanted was as much as might b^ 
required by so many emigrants as could be sent frofH 
England. To transplant a population to Mexico in 
such numbers as would have made even a beginning 
to such a scheme as was contemplated, would have 
required revenues not obtainable by Robert Owen or 
his friends, and therefore all these negotiations were 
connected with vague hopes, rather than with careful 
calculations. At this time the condition of the people 
was almost as bad as it could be ; and so many persons 
of position and means had promised help, that his 
anxiety for, and belief in, a great effort to carry through 
an experiment of the kind, need not be wondered at. 
" It was my intention," he says, "to have peopled 
this new, and, in many places, wild district, with an 
intelligent and moral working class from the British 
Islands and Europe, great numbers being anxious at 
this period to commence a true communistic life, 
which I intended gradually to introduce into this 
new social government of peace. Those from Europe 
would also have been joined by multitudes from the 
United States, and by many from the old Mexican 
states. It was my intention also to have made peace 
with all the Indian tribes, and to have invited them to 
settle at first in their own way, within the new territory, 
and by degrees to accustom them to the true family 
commonwealth arrangements, for which they were 
already in some measure prepared." He adds : — " My 

Mexico, 239 

early acquaintance with the working classes enabled 

me to see the downward progress they were making, 

in proportion as chemical discoveries and mechanical 

"•^j inventions increased so as to diminish the general 

Rvalue of their labour. I noticed the increasing power 

hat wealth, especially in the manufacturing districts, 

as acquiring over them, and how, gradually, the 

ass of them were sinking into real slavery." 

To relieve the suffering then existing, and to prevent 

r-jhe misery which he knew, in an unaltered state of 

Ithings, must continue to afflict his countrymen, was 

^he settled purpose of his life ; and in predicting what 

kHust come to pass if the system he protested against 

rv^ere continued, his words were words of truth and 

loberncss. The war of classes is as fierce as it was 

^hen. There has been no reconcilement of interests, 

o abatement of antagonisms ; and looking at Ireland 

lone, the nearness to a total dissolution of society 

more apparent than ever. We laugh at the failures 

f philanthropists and enthusiasts, and pursue our 

nward course, willing to believe that what is not at 

e worst cannot be far from the best, — tempting 

rovidence by closing our eyes to the numerous 

ssibilities of escape open to those who, with high 

o* I combine wise and well-considered efforts. 



End of Vol. I. 


















4 b- 







Co-Operative Stores - . - . . i 

Efforts to Improve the Condition of the Poor- ii 

Plan of Labour Exchange - - * - - 25 

Causes of Failure - - - - 35 

Preparations. New Movements - - - 42 

Agitation in Manchester - - - 54 

Manchester Congress^ Extended Work - - 66 

A Disputed Question - - - - - 83 

The Bishop of Exeter. Popular Agitxyio^^ - ^s 

viii Contents. 


Progress and Opposition - - - - m 

Riots at Burslem and Bristol - - - 119 

Practical Operations - - - - - 136 

Change of Policy - - - - - 152 


End of the Queenwood Experimp:nt. Misrepre- 
sentations - - - - - - 168 


Close of Leadership. Parentage of Store Move- 
ment- - - - - - - 182 

Termination of Career - - - - 190 

Conclusion - - - - - 196 





Cooperative Stores^ 

Before Robert Owen visited Mexico he had been 
busy in promoting active operations among his 
friends in England. Considering the magnitude of 
the work to which he devoted himself, it must have 
been clear to him from the beginning, that of himself 
he could do little beyond explaining his principles 
and his plans. In the nature of things, if others did 
not assist him liberally, it was almost certain that his 
efforts must end in disappointment, as no private in- 
dividual, however wealthy, or however willing to part 
with his wealth, could reasonably hope to meet the 
money requirements of such an undertaking. 

When Owen's appeal to the upper classes had 
proved ineffectual, and it was made certain that the 
wealthy would not supply the necessary funds, there 
was nothing left but to abandon his designs or to try 
what could be done by an appeal to the masses of the 
people. An appeal for financial help to the working 
classes is usually unsuccessful ; nothing but generally 
and strongly felt convictions can opetaVe ^tt^cXw'^i^^ 

VOL. II, ^ 

2 Lifey Times y and Labours of Robert Owen. 

to such an end, and as no agitation of any consequence 
had been carried on in favour of Owen's principles, it 
was not possible that there could exist any widely- 
spread conviction in favour of them, or any general 
enthusiasm for their adoption. The production of 
strong conviction in the public mind in regard to sub- 
jects to which public attention has not been constantly 
directed, is not to be reasonably looked for. For the 
instruction of the people where conviction has to be 
produced and a knowledge of method of action incul- 
cated, active missionary work is necessary. A centre 
had to be formed from which men of strong convic- 
tions and enthusiastic temper might go forth to deliver 
to others the faith by which they themselves were 
animated. These men had to be found. Time was 
necessary for the discovery of the requisite qualities 
in men newly drawn together, and the social move- 
ment originated by Owen was as yet in its infancy. 
Beyond what he had himself done by means of public 
meetings, and printed essays and letters, little had 
been attempted ; and therefore, although in 1817, and 
for a couple of years subsequently, much discussion 
was carried on, it had not attracted the attention of 
the masses of the people, nor penetrated among them so 
as to impart an understanding of what was really meant, 
or beget the enthusiasm necessary for effective effort. 
The Economist^ the first number of which was pub- 
lished on January 27, 182 1, price three pence, and 
which seems to have terminated its existence in 
March, 1822, was a publication of sixteen small octavo 
pages. Owen himself seems to have had little if any- 
thing to do with it. The editor, who signed himself 
''£conomist," was, I believe, a gentleman named 

Co-operative Stores. 3 

Mudie, and it may be said that he wrote like a clever 
and sensible man on subjects which had con- 
nection with the social and industrial improvement of 
the working people. One thing noticeable was an 
eagerness to begin small experiments in connection 
with groups of families, and as this was a form of 
co-operation of which Owen disapproved, it was very 
hkely the reason why he kept clear of the paper and 
the projects it encouraged. 

The Orbiston Register, printed at Edinburgh, and 
edited by Abram Combe, the brother of George and 
Andrew Combe, was of octavo size, eight pages, closely 
printed. This, while Combe's health permitted him to 
attend to it, was a well-written and most useful publica- 
tion; but when failing health compelled Combe to relin- 
quish his editorial duties, it was less ably conducted. 
The Co-operative Magazine V4^.% started in 1826, and was 


issued in monthly numbers. It consisted of forty- 
eight closely-printed pages, and contained much in- 
formation as to what was then going on as co-opera- 
tive work : instances of the misery and crime in 
society, and comments thereon ; also explanations of 
the new proposals of Owen, and expositions useful 
for the furthering of co-operative propagandism. The 
Co-operator^ a small four-paged paper, in reality a 
series of tracts, contained disquisitions on co-operation 
as a business, rather than speculations as to a new 
state of society, and recorded progress with a com- 
mendable brevity. At the end of the first number 
there is the following announcement: — *'Societies upon 
this principle, viz., that of accumulating a common 
capital, and investing it in trade, and so making 10 per 
cent, of it, instead of investing it in the funds atotvV^ \^ 

4 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

or 4i, with the intention of ultimately purchasing land 
and living in community, have been established in the 
following places — 36 Red Lion Square, London ; 37 
West Street, Brighton ; 10 Queen's Place, Brighton ; 
and 20 Marine Place, Worthing." The word " com- 
munity" in this case signifies a group of people living 
together in common neighbourhood for the sake of the 
advantages to be derived from common arrangements 
for promotingeducation, employment, social intercourse, 
economy, and comfort That there might be no mis- 
take, as to the kind of change they proposed, it is 
declared that the three essentials for co-operation 
were labour, capital, and knowledge. 

Ridicule has been thrown on the early efforts of 
co-operators. Their proceedings, however, are best 
vindicated in their own words, and the results that 
have followed on the spot where these words were 
spoken. A meeting was held in Leeds in the Decem- 
ber of 1828, of the members of the benefit societies of 
that town, for the purpose of listening to a discourse 
on co-operation by Mr. Carson, a working man from 
Birmingham. The address was an excellent practical 
address. Mn Carson proposed that they should form 
a co-operative society of sixty families, each subscrib- 
ing IS. a week to a general fund. " This sum would 
in one year amount to £150, with which they might 
commence business. The society might at the end of 
the year, or sooner if expedient, be enabled to go to 
market with money sufficient to buy the commodities 
they might require ; because it would be one of their 
fundamental rules that every purchase should be 
made with ready money, inasmuch as their profits 
would be increased one-third by discount on pur- 

Co-operative Stores. 5 

chases. He calculated that they spent at the rate of 
los. per week each for the various necessaries of life, 
and this sum would amount in a year to ;^ 1,500. 
Profit and discount on this was calculated at 1 5 per 
cent, and this would give £2^4. " They might," Mr. 
Carson said, " procure an agent to manage their busi- 
ness for £1 per week, the rent of a showroom and 
premises would not be more than £^^0 a year, and, 
after these deductions, the society would have a clear 
income of ;^I52 a year.'' This was Mr. Carson's cal- 
culation in Leeds, as a recommendation to the work- 
ing men of that town fifty-four years ago, or sixteen 
years before the twenty-eight Rochdale pioneers put 
their £1 each together to commence practical 
operations in that town.^ The Co-operator^ page 
3, No. 10, comments favourably on Mr. Carson's 
address. " Mr. Carson," it says, " sees clearly the 
enormous profits which the working classes are 
daily giving away to other people by not market- 
ing for themselves. Other people grow rich upon 
these profits, and all the riches of the world in fact 
are got out of them ; for they can be nothing else than 
the overplus of the labour of the workman above his 
own subsistence saved up in the shape of capital. 
Those who save most get most capital. The work- 
men, if united, might save as well as anybody else. 
There might as well be a company of workmen as a 
company of capitalists. A joint-labour company is as 

^ This account is taken from the pages of the Co-operator^ 
which was presented to the writer by James Smithies, of Roch- 
dale, and which is, most likely, the copy that guided the Roch- 
dale men in what they did in 1844 — the date of the foundation of 
their store. 

6 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

simple as a joint-stock company. The only differ- 
ence is that the one has been invented and the other 
not. But all things must have a beginning. There 
was a time when joint-stock companies did not exist. 
Capitalists were tod ignorant to form them. As the 
knowledge of capitalists increased, they formed joint- 
stock companies ; and as the knowledge of the work- 
ing classes increases, they will form joint-labour 
companies. They will keep these enormous profits in 
their own hands. Mr. Carson alludes to the goodness 
of articles which a club or union w^ould naturally sell 
in their own shop. This is another very important 
consideration. It is quite notorious that every article 
capable of being adulterated is adulterated. There 
are persons who live by carrying on trades expressly 
for the purpose. The generality of people cannot 
possibly distinguish genuine articles from counterfeits. 
Whoever buys the counterfeit for the genuine cheats 
himself out of so much health and strength. This is 
particularly the case with the workman. To him it is 
of the utmost consequence to have his food pure, and 
the most nourishment in the least compass. This he 
will never attain to without a shop of his own, and 
this shop he can never possess without co-operation." 
In this way the advantages of co-operation were 
pointed out, and though in Leeds only sixty families 
were calculated on to start with fifty-four years ago, 
they have now above 20,400 members. The business 
done by the co-operators of Great Britain at the present 
time amounts to about twenty-five millions sterling per 
annum, while the profit and interest returned to the 
members of co-operative societies are reckoned at 
about tvvo-and-a-quarter millions sterling per annum. 

Co-operative Stores, 7 

At the end of the number of the Co-operator for 
December, 1829, the following announcement ap- 
pears: — "There are about one hundred and thirty co- 
operative societies now established." From this it 
will be seen that there was no disinclination on the 
part of a section of the working people to give it as 
fair a trial as their knowledge and means permitted. 

There has been a disposition to mix up and con- 
found the proceedings of co-operators of various 
kinds, and if those concerned were not unfriendly to 
Robert Owen, to credit him with the blundering or 
failure of the various experiments. He, in fact, ab- 
stained from encouraging any of the small experiments 
so much talked of up to 1835, in the belief that 
success could only be obtained by the possession of 
large capital ; and when men with more enthusiasm 
than prudence urged initiatory experiments, he so 
strongly discouraged them that he more than once 
incurred the displeasure of persons who much re- 
spected him, but who thought he was aiming at more 
than working men needed as the commencement of a 
better state of things. 

The great question, however, was how to acquire 
funds for co-operative purposes. The people who 
gave countenance to the social awakening produced 
by Robert Owen's experiments, discourses, and 
writings, never encouraged any idea of procuring 
pecuniary help, beyond what might be derived from 
their own industry and thrift. In the agitation car- 
ried on they made themselves responsible both as to 
means and ends. They excited in others only such 
hopes as they themselves entertained : such hopes as 
might be entertained after a full consideration of th3 

8 LtfCy Times, and Labotirs of Robert Owen, 

whole subject, as to its practicability by means of 
such power in number and in finances as the people 
actually possessed, or might hope to possess, by the 
exercise of a wise and reasonable activity. One thing 
is certain, namely, that any popular movement, 
depending for its success on the sobriety, thrift, in- 
telligence, and forethought of the people, even though 
it fail in realising the precise object at which it aims, 
brings to those who engage in it such large gains in 
discipline, self-denial, and effort for improvement, that 
instead of incurring reproach it ought to be hailed 
with approval by all friends of progress. 

From 1825 to 1834 co-operative action was con- 
fined almost entirely to the establishment of co-opera- 
tive stores. The exact number of these cannot be 
accurately given. At the close of 1829, as we have 
seen, the number of societies was stated to be 130. 
It may be said, perhaps, that by the close of 183 1 this 
number had increased to 250 at least. What is called 
the ** bonus ' or " dividend " in the present co-opera- 
tive movement, was unknown at this time. There 
was, therefore, no personal interest of a palpable kind 
to hold the members together, should their faith in the 
ultimate results of co-operation cool. The profits 
were to be funded to the credit of the investors as 
capital for the employment of labour, and therefore 
the slowness of progress and the fact that the principal 
investors being the best situated of the members, 
looked more to immediate advantage, while the worst 
off were impatient for results, the promise of which 
did not approach with sufficient rapidity, caused at a 
given point the process of disintegration to become 
more rapid than that of growth; and gradually, though 

Co-operative Stores. 9 

the movement never completely died out, it ceased to 
carry in it any hope for the redemption of labour. 

John Finch of Liverpool, a merchant in the iron 
trade, put the cause of failure, so far as it had then 
gone (1832), on its true ground. In that year the 
third annual Co-operative Congress was held in 
London, and at this Congress many of the stores had 
representatives. " The progress that has been made," 
said Mr. Finch, addressing a large public meeting 
held by the Congress, "in acting upon these principles 
has not been so rapid as the progress of the principles 
themselves. But the diffusion of knowledge is the 
first thing. There have been societies formed in 
various parts of the kingdom called trades unions or 
co-operative s ocieties, the object j )f which is to unite 
tlieir members in the attainment of knowledge, and 
also to obtain possession o f capital . The first pro- 
posed object of these unions has been realised. Large 
numbers of persons, chiefly of the working classes, 
have been brought together in one common bond of 
interest and affection. But I am sorry to say that 
some of them have failed in the other object of their 
association ; that is, the attainment of capital. I 
shall enumerate some of the causes, as I have ob- 
served them, of this failure. The first cause has been 
a want of union and active co-operation amongst the 
members. They have neglected their meetings, 
failed to make themselves properly and familiarly 
acquainted with the principles and proceedings of 
their society, and left the management of their con- 
cerns to a few individuals. Another cause of their 
failure has been the existence of a spirit of selfishness 
amongst them — a spirit which has been engendered 

lo LifCy Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

in some degree, perhaps, by those societies them- 
selves. Shopkeeping has no tendency to improve 
either their principles or their morals. In the next 
place there has been a general neglect of business on 
the part of the members. They have not carefully 
audited their accounts, diligently looked after the 
purchases made for them, or superintended and 
regulated their stock. Another cause has been the 
members not dealing at their own stores. It was not 
to be expected that the trading societies should 
answer their ends if the shop were deserted by its 
own proprietors. Another difficulty attending these 
societies, and which has tended to render them some- 
times abortive, is the great responsibility that attaches 
to the trustees, whilst there is no bond of union with the 
members. The trustees take upon themselves the 
responsibility of paying all accounts, and answering 
all demands upon the society. The members, on the 
other hand, take upon themselves no responsibility ; 
and if the society should be found unprosperous, they 
walk themselves out, leaving the trustees with all the 
responsibility of a losing concern. The incapacity or 
dishonesty of storekeepers, or managers, has also been 
a cause of loss and failure.'* 

This is, doubtless, a true picture ; but it should be 
remembered that the combination laws had been re- 
pealed only eight years previously ; that there was con- 
sequently no habit of association among the working 
people, and that the laws, giving security and freedom 
of action since passed through the instrumentality of 
the Christian Socialists, were not then in existence. 
The situation has, therefore, altered greatly in favour 
of successful operations by the people. 


fiflorte to 5mprov>e tbe Con&ftion of tbe poor* 

What the store movement aimed at was, as we have 
seen, the accumulation of capital for the establishment 
of depots, where the working people, by doing their 
own business, could appropriate to themselves the 
profit hitherto made on it by others. They were 
aware that such an attempt was attended by risks 
arising from inexperience, but they also knew 
that whatever they might attempt, risks and disap- 
pointments would have to be encountered. They 
knew, too, that their first efforts must necessarily be 
feeble, and progress slow ; but this was an indispen- 
sable condition in connection with any experiment 
the people might make, where a knowledge of prin- 
ciple and requisite business experience were only 
beginning to be acquired. 

The conception of this store project, whatever re- 
sult it might have, was a bold one, and, considering 
the condition of the working classes at that time, 
though not encouraging, yet carried in it sufficient 
promise to tempt ardent reformers. In 1867 Leone 
Levi estimated the earnings of the working classes at 
;£'4 1 8,000,000 per annum ; 10 per cent, on this would 
have been close on ;^42,ooo,ooo a year. If we take 
;^300,ooo,ooo as the earnings of the working people in 

12 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

1825, it will be seen that ;^30,ooo,ooo a year was the 
stake played for. Those who commenced this 
movement knew very well that only a very small 
portion of this could be obtained by co-operative 
effort ; but it was all there, and was every day increas- 
ing in amount, and therefore the attempt was worth 
making, however slight the success might at first 

The idea included two important points, namely the 
accumulation of capital for self-employment, and the 
organisation of consumption by means of the store, 
with a view to controlling production, and thus re- 
moving the chief difficulty in the way of self-employ- 
ment That at first looked shadowy ; but the ex- 
perience acquired by perseverance made it daily 
easier, until gradually, and after much disappointment, 
changes of plan, new developments of business experi- 
ence, and many vicissitudes, the new shape was 
assumed, and success may now be considered as 
assured. It was certain from the beginning that a 
large proportion of the earnings of the working people 
could not be dealt with by themselves. Their houses 
had to be found by the owners of property, profes- 
sional services were beyond their control, while as to 
their enormous drink expenditure, the men of the co- 
operative movement from the first, refused absolutely 
to have anything to do with it as part of their trade. 
There can be no doubt that the idea embodied in the 
co-operative store movement, which the men in it 
have not yet completely realised, will, when they 
come to understand and apply it, work the most 
extraordinary revolution in the practices of trade. It 
might be going too far to say that Robert Owen 

Efforts to Improve tJu Condition of the Poor. 13 

foresaw and understood what might be done by its full 
application. It is clear from his writings, however, 
that he saw very distinctly it would place a mighty 
power, capable of great results, in the hands of 
the working classes, and it is evident that even when 
its working was clumsy and unsatisfactory as a money 
investment, it was producing good in many ways to 
those who had gone into it 

It put on its members the necessity of keeping out 
of debt, at a time when indebtedness was the general 
condition of the working classes. It put upon them 
also the necessity of prudence and foresight,. that by 
taking care of the wages, when earned, they might be 
able to conform to the ready-money payments of 
their new system. It led to an extensive association 
among its members, and to a daily intercourse in 
which economy and business were subjects of conver- 
sation ; and, which was of still greater advantage, it 
gave them, by service on their committees, a know- 
ledge of business the importance of which could not 
be over-estimated. It had also a most beneficial effect 
on the morality of trade. By their practice of ready- 
money dealing, they kept clear of speculative business, 
and risk of bankruptcy through bad debts. By the 
constancy of their custom, through membership, the 
demand became so easily calculated that their stock 
was, as it were, sold as soon as it was bought, and 
wholesale purchase could be easily fitted to retail 
demand. As they bought for themselves and sold to 
themselves, dividing the profit among themselves, 
there was no temptation to adulterate, to use false 
weights or measures, or to represent anything to be 
other than it was. These were moral and business 

14 Life, Times^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

advantages which had a direct effect on the wdrking 
classes. It may also be said that its tendency was to 
carry the people over to the side of order, as political 
disturbance was not likely to proceed from those who 
required peace and the pursuits of peace for the 
carrying out of their ideas. 

That themen who had engaged in the store movement 
from 1825 to 1835 were working in the interest of the 
nation by promoting peace and aiding good govern- 
ment, may be seen by glancing at the state of the 
country at the time during which their labours 
continued. It is important to note that they were 
not seeking to disturb and alter a state of things that 
in any sense could be regarded as satisfactory. They 
were not recommending anything that dissipated the 
people's means, deepened their poverty, or excited 
their discontent. They were not making any class of 
men objects of special blame, or exciting the anger of 
the people against them. What they did was to re- 
cognise the miseries and the difficulties of the situa- 
tion, and to put upon themselves the duty of practi- 
cally remedying the evils of which they complained, 
and from which they suffered. 

The deep distress of large numbers of the working 
population in the manufacturing towns, where the co- 
operators were most active, and where the workers 
ought to have been better off than in any other part 
of the kingdom, was simply appalling. Inquiries of a 
careful and minute kind had not then been carried as far as 
they have subsequently been, but when they were en- 
tered on, a few years later, they rendered vast service 
in laying bare to the public gaze a state of things that 
had existed for several years. 

Efforts to Improve the Condition of the Poor 1 5 

John Noble, in the appendix to his work on 
National Finance," has taken the following statements 
from " Hansard's Parliamentary Debates." " They 
afford," he says, " conclusive evidence of the condition 
of general distress and wretchedness into which the 
population had been plunged." Mr. Slanley, February, 
4, 1840, says: — "In Liverpool in 1839, there were 
7,860 cellars used as dwellings, inhabited by 39,000 
people, or one-seventh of the then population of the 
town. In Manchester and Salford also a considerable 
portion of the population inhabited cellars. Out of 
37,000 habitations which were examined, no less than 
18,400 were ill-furnished, and 10,400 altogether with- 
out furniture. In Bury, the population of which is 
20,000, the dwellings of 3,000 families were visited. 
In 773 of them the families slept three and four in a 
bed ; in 209 four and five slept in a bed ; in 6^ five 
and six slept in a bed ; and in 1 5 six and seven slept 
in a bed. In Newcastle-on-Tyne the residences of 
26,000 poor persons were examined, and those w^ho 
saw them gave a most appalling account of the misery, 
filth, and want of air, which prevailed." Mr. Schol- 
field, June 1 5, 1841, read from a letter to the effect that 
workmen, in Birmingham, with large families, "are 
receiving from 6s. to lis. per week, and would be able, 
if they could work full time, to earn from i Ss. to 30s. 
per week. How these families live and pay rent can 
only be answered by the poor creatures themselves." 
Mr. Baines, member for Leeds, in the same debate de- 
clared that in the town he represented there were no 
less than 10,000 persons out of employment, or depen- 
dent on those in that situation ; the population at that 
time was slightly over 151,000, so that one-fifteenth 

1 6 LifBy Tifnesy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

had no work. In the same debate a few nights after, 
Sharman Crawford, member for Rochdale, declared 
that in that town " there were 1 36 persons living on 
6d. per week, 290 on lod., 508 on is., 855 on is. 6d., 
and 1,500 on is. lod. per week. Of these five-sixths 
had scarcely a blanket amongst them ; 85 families 
had no blanket ; and 46 families had only chaff beds, 
without any covering at all." Mr. J. Brotherton, mem- 
ber for Sal ford, said that there were in that town 
" 2, 030 houses untenanted, which, if occupied, would 
yield a rental of £27, 000 a year. The poor-rates had 
doubled since 1836. In Manchester, during the last 
year, upwards of 10,000 families had been relieved by 
public subscription." Dr. Bowring said that, " at 
Bolton, 1, 400 houses were unoccupied. Of the poor- 
rates, only two-thirds could be collected, in conse- 
quence of the distress.'' Mr. Cobden declared that, 
" in Stockport, twenty-nine large concerns were closed. 
A 2s. rate only yielded one-sixth of what it did two 
years ago, and a is. rate only two- thirds of what a 6d. 
rate did at that time." Much more might be added, 
but to register the growth of public distress in the 
manufacturing districts is only making known what, 
at the time, was admitted as a fact beyond contradic- 

In the agricultural districts, pauperism had become 
so general as to seriously interfere with the value of 
property. In a work dedicated to the members of the 
committeeof the Poor- Law Conference, published in 
1876,^ J. R. Prettyman says, quoting from the 
report of the Poor- Law Commissioners : One 
witness, whose evidence is given in the Report for 
^ " Dispauperizature." — Longmans. 

Efforts to Improve t/te Condition of the Poor, 17 

1834, says, in the parish of Cholesbury, all the land 
was offered to the assembled paupers, who refused it, 
saying they would rather continue on the old system, 
namely, receiving wages out of rates. The Rector, 
whose whole income had been absorbed by pauperism, 
says : " The rates, having swallowed up the rents, 
the parish officers threw up their books, and the poor, 
left without any means of maintenance, assembled, at 
my door, whilst I was in bed, and applied to me for 
advice and food. My income being under £160 a 
year, rendered my means of relief small, but I got a 
rate-in-aid of ;£'Sofrom Drayton. The present state 
of the parish is this — the land almost wholly 
abandoned, the poor thrown upon the rates, and set 
to work on the roads and gravel-pits, and paid for this 
unprofitable labour at the expense of another parish.'* 
Mr. Majendie, an assistant commissioner, says : " In 
Lenham, Kent, some of the land was out of cultiva- 
tion. A large estate has been several years in the 
hands of the proprietor, and a farm of 420 acres of 
good land and tithe free, and well situated, had just 
been thrown up by the tenant, the poor rate on it 
amounting to £^00 a year." It is also reported to 
the commissioners that " the owner of a farm at 
Granden, in Cambridgeshire, could not get a tenant 
even at Ss. an acre, and that Downing College, which 
has a property of 5,000 acres, in the same county, 
found it impossible, notwithstanding the lowering of 
the rents to an extreme point, to obtain men of 
substance for tenants ; " and at Great Shelford, in the 
same county, the absolute absorption of the land, it 
was anticipated, would take place in ten years. Cases 
of this sort might be quoted from a large number of 
VOL. n, B 

1 8 LifCy Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

counties, extending almost throughout the kingdom, in 
proof of the manner in which the poverty of the 
country was rapidly eating away the value of property. 
Evidence on the subject is so overwhelming that 
special references need not be given. 

The moral and intellectual condition of the people 
was on a level with their poverty. Forty-eight per 
cent, of the children in Birmingham were receiving 
some kind of scholastic training in common day and 
Sunday schools, while over 5 1 per cent, were receiving 
no education whatever. In Dudley, Walsall, Wednes- 
bury, and Stourbridge, " the proportion that could read 
was represented as being unusually small, some who 
stated that they could read, when examined, were 
found unable to read a word, and out of forty-one 
witnesses under eighteen years of age examined at 
Darlaston, only four could write their names." The 
same report, page 203, says that in Sheffield, " two- 
thirds of the working class children and young persons 
are growing up in a state of ignorance, and are unable 
to read.'' So far as the welfare of the masses of the 
working people was concerned, the Government was 
not in any true sense of the word a real government. 
It repressed turbulence, and punished crime, in 
defence of property ; but it neither sought to cultivate 
the faculties of the people, nor to satisfy by wise 
provision of law their legitimate wants ; to give them 
the knowledge or opportunity which would enable 
them to do these things for themselves. 

In such a state of things, it became the duty of 
every thoughtful man to exert himself for the promo- 
tion of needful reforms. The only action for such a 
purpose was associated action ; hence the many 

Efforts to Improve the Condition of tlie Poor, 19 

societies then at work, especially among those who 
strove for a cheap and free press, and Robert Owen 
and his friends, who laboured zealously for education, 
and voluntary endeavour on behalf of the workers of 
the country. 

Luckily for Robert Owen, when he was most 
active in doing all that lay in his power for improving 
the condition of the working people, there did not 
exist one-half the books we now possess, explaining 
the intricacies of what is called political economy. If 
they had existed, however, it is probable he would 
not have read them, and if he had, it is impossible to 
believe that he would have been better fitted for the 
work to which he devoted himself. 

He always insisted that we either had, or might 
have, a surplus of wealth over and above what our 
population could require, and the thought that most 
occupied his mind was not how to fit our population 
to our supplies, but how to distribute equitably our 
supplies among our population. How to get rid of 
the people by emigration need puzzle nobody who can 
find the money to carry the idle hands of Great Britain 
to the boundless unoccupied tracts of the United 
States, the Dominion of Canada, and the Australian 
colonies. If human creatures were simply a species 
of merchandise, in connection with which there was 
nothing to consider but the means of transport, our 
difficulty in connection with our population would 
soon disappear. This is not the case. Human 
passions, and affections, and prejudices, and interests, 
complicate the matter very seriously, and therefore 
Owen put before him quite a different problem, 
namely, how to keep the people undisturbed in the 

20 LifCy TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

country into which they were born, how to employ 
them productively, and how to distribute the produce 
of their industry in such a manner as to secure the 
necessaries and comforts of life to those whose labour 
had created the nation s wealth. 

It was to him an astounding fact that with the 
power of creating wealth possessed by Great Britain, 
a large proportion of people should be in a state of 
starvation, or semi-starvation ; — that in a country 
where so many were excessively rich, large num- 
bers were forced to remain idle, leaving unpro- 
duced what the people were dying for, simply because 
there was not statesmanship enough to use the 
unemployed hands for the purpose of filling the 
empty mouths. His pressing questions at this point 
were — How can the idle hands be employed ; how 
can the empty mouths be filled ? 

Among the many things that have been estimated, 
it is questionable whether the value of the time 
wasted, wholly or partially, by the workers of Great 
Britain, through want of employment, has ever yet 
had a money value put upon it. Some instances were 
given in the last chapter as to how matters stood in 
this respect in 1839. One-fifteenth of the population 
of Leeds being out of employment altogether, we 
may safely say that 50 per cent, in addition were only 
partially employed. This applied to the whole 
population would mean many millions sterling in 
wages alone ; what it might mean in uncreated wealth 
to the nation it is, perhaps, impossible to say. 

In his Labour Exchange plan, this was the question 
to which Owen tried to give a practical answer. That 
he had thought the matter out, is clear from his 

Efforts to Improve the Condition of the Poor. 2 1 

" Report in the County of Lanark." In this report, 
which was made, at the request of a committee of 
gentlemen of the " Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, to a 
general meeting of the county, held at Lanark on the 
1st of May, 1820," he insists, " That the natural 
standard of value iSy in principle^ human labour ^ or 
the combined manual and mental powers of men 
called into action!^ I have referred to a small book,^ 
which defines the words most in use among political 
economists, and I find no fewer than twenty-nine 
definitions of the word value \ and I think I may say, 
that though the men quoted from for this purpose, are 
the very first as writers of reputation, it would be 
better, on the whole, if those who are really anxious 
to understand the meaning of the word, did not read 
the list of obscurities and contradictions given by Mr. 
Constable. Owen agreed with no one of the orthodox 
definitions of value. His idea was that gold and 
silver were artificial standards. These, which ought 
to represent the wealth of the country, lost true rela- 
tion by a growth of wealth. When the circulating 
medium fails to meet the business requirements of the 
country, credit becomes a habit, inflation of credit 
follows, as a matter of course, and, as this rests on 
confidence, as soon as a panic can be got up, collapse 
and ruin follow, and idleness, through lack of employ- 
ment, and deep suffering, through want of wages, 
result to the masses of the working people. 

Beginning with 1817, Mr. Halbert^ shows that out 

1 ** Constable's Anatomy of Wealth." — Simpkin^ Marshall^ &* 

2 " Halbert's Exposition of Economic and Financial Science," 
page ^z. 

22 LifCy TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owetu 

of sixty years, closing with 1877, there were thirty- 
two years of panic, depression, over-trading and com- 
mercial reaction. This state of things, with the awful 
misery attending it, cannot be explained so as to put 
it beyond the control of a wise statesmanship. In 
1826 there was a crisis brought about by foreign loans 
and mining speculation. In 1837-38 there was the 
great American panic; in 1847 the great railway 
panic and Irish potato failure; in 1857 the Western 
Scottish Bank failure; 1866, Overend and Gurney's 
crushing fall, with " hundreds of limited liability 
companies and newly-started bank companies, bankers 
and speculators going down in one * grand melee' of 
ruin and disaster." Subsequently to this, in one year 
alone, the year 1875, Mr. Purdy, in his "City Life, 
Its Trade and Finance," page 206, gives a list of 
great commercial failures, including Alexander Collie 
& Co., amounting to ;£^3 7,05 8,373. There are words 
by which such business can be explained, but there 
are no words by which the awful suffering that at- 
tends it can be described. Commercial scheming 
and money-jobbing lie at the root of it, and in the 
folly and greed of men, not in the inevitable decrees 
of Providence, are to be found the causes for such a 
state of things. 

These commercial dislocations, to whatever causes 
traced, may be regarded as hitches in our system of 
exchange. Either the money arrangements are at 
fault, or the system of supply and demand has got 
out of gear. In either case, the industrial machine 
becomes ungovernable, and breaks down. In con- 
nection with the working people, the constant fluctua- 
tions ot trade are severely felt. When trade is .not at 

Efforts to Inipro'Ve the Condition of the Poor, 23 

its best or at its worst, it is either improving or de- 
clining. When at its best, it can scarcely ever be 
said that all are employed. When at its worst, 
there is, among the unemployed, a general misery 
which no system of relief can meet, and no effort of 
private benevolence greatly mitigate. In the improv- 
ing or declining condition, there are always large 
numbers wholly or partially unemployed, and suffer- 
ing in a greater or lesser degree, so that, except in 
the rare intervals when things are at their very 
best, the condition of the labourin.2: population 
in Great Britain is a condition of uncertainty, of 
competition for employment, of depressed wages, and 
comparative want. Out of the sixty years already 
alluded to irl the work of Mr. Halbert, the term of 
decided and prosperous commercial enterprise is 
stated to be eighteen years, whilst that of bad 
trade and of decline and recovery stands at forty-two 

Owen's Labour Exchange plan was meant to apply 
principally to the unemployed and partially em- 
ployed. It accepted labour as the standard of value 
and as the source of wealth. He started in this from 
the ground laid down by Adam Smith, who, in his 
introduction to the " Wealth of Nations," says : " The 
annual labour of every nation is the fund which 
originally supplies it with all the necessaries and 
conveniences of life which it annually consumes, and 
which consists always either in the immediate pro- 
duce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that 
produce from other nations. According, therefore, as 
this produce, or what is purchased with it, bears a 
greater or smaller proportion to the number of those 

24 LifCy TimeSy and Lahours of Robert Owefi, 

who are to consume it, the nation will be better or 
worse supplied with all the necessaries and con- 
veniences for which it has occasion." M*Cullock says, 
p. 73 : " That the great practical problem involved in 
that part of the science which treats of the production 
of wealth, must resolve itself into a discussion of the 
means by which labour may be considered most 
efficient, or by which the greatest amount of neces- 
sary, useful and desirable products may be obtained 
with the least outlay of labour." In this view of the 
matter it must be plain that, to have inactive any 
portion of the community that might be engaged in 
productive employment, is injurious not only to those 
who are forced into involuntary idleness, but also to 
society which has to support them in idleness, instead 
of deriving profit from their labour. The science of 
the political economist, if it can only attempt an 
explanation instead of accomplishing a cure, must be 
at fault, and in such a situation, instead of being 
satisfied with the explanation of the political econo- 
mist, it is our duty to encourage such experiments as 
may promise a solution of the difficulty. 


plan of Xabour ££cbande. 

Owen in many ways asked the question — why, if 
lab our be the pa ^'^nt o^ w^^alfH^ i^ht^ wnrh-t^r^ of the 
country were compelled to starve when they were able 
and anxious to work? The statesmen and politicians 
gave no answer. The political economists spoke of a 
falling ofif in demand — of the unremunerative condition ? 
of the markets; overlooking the fact that these idle/ 
people, if put to work, wo uld of themse lves create \ 
mark ets by the supplyin g^ of their wants. The pro- ( 
ducer was also a consuinei, iuid Robert Owerr~and < 
his f&ll6wers felt that some intelligent effort should be ' 
made to at least produce as much by the labour of ) 
the unemployed as would enable them without injury | 
to others to keep life in themselves. 

It would perhaps be too much to expect statesmen 
to devote their time to any subject which has not first 
been discussed by the public, and the condition of the 
unemployed never received that kind of public atten- 
tion which leads to a comprehension of principles and 
an understanding of details. Public discussion has 
always taken the form of how to feed and employ 
paupers at the least expense to the rate-payers, when 
the consideration ought to have been how to employ 
unpauperised workers with advantage to themselves 

26 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

and the public, and at no cost to the rate-payers. 
The worker, forced into poverty by want of employ- 
ment, may be said to have no refuge but pauperism ; 
at first perhaps only partial, but, in the end, complete. 
When the pressure on the rates is not heavy, or when 
it is not expected to be of long continuance, out-door 
relief is given ; but if the pressure increases and con- 
tinues, out-door relief is gradually cut off, and the 
doors of the workhouse thrown open in the belief that 
large numbers would suffer anything rather than 
enter them. In this way there is sometimes a 
temporary saving in money, but there is always a per- 
manent increase in the inmates of the " house,'* and 
there is an increase also in that abjectness of spirit by 
which pauperism is accepted as a permanent condition 
of life. 

Owen, and those who thought with him, saw what 
was obvious to the world at the time when the Labour 
Exchange was organised (1830 to 1832), that the 
growth of pauperism, through want of employment, 
was"^nrof mous, a nd I hUL iiiultitudoQ of people, who had 
up to that time struggled to provide themselves with 
food, lodging, clothing, and fire, by heavy, disagreeable, 
and continous labour, were rapidly coming to the 
conclusion that the lodging, clothing, and food of the 
pauper were better than they had been in the habit of 
procuring for themselves, and that they got it in what 
was miscalled the " workhouse," without working. In 
this way the labour of the country was becoming 
demoralised, and there was no method of dealing with 
it understood either by the Government or the local 
authorities, that could prevent the complications and 
dangers rapidly multiplying and becoming worse as 

Plan of Labour Exchange, 27 

they increased in number. It is true that wealth was 
increasing in the hands of certain classes of the com- 
munity, and when this weaUh was boastingly spoken 
of, as a national aggregate, there was reason for the 
boast; but the wide-spread poverty, on one hand, 
presented such a striking contrast to the growing 
riches and luxury on the other, that it was a question 
if the position were not more calculated to excite 
alarm than satisfaction. 

It would be difficult to conceive any plan by which 
the whole unemployed portion of the labouring popu- 
lation could be set to work under the ordinary condi- 
tions of depressed trade. There were millions of 
people at this period unemployed and partially em- 
ployed. It would have taken so much capital, and 
engaged so much of the managing faculty of the 
country, as jwould_Jiajy£.xiisorgani^d the established 
system. Any project where such a tendency was to 
be apprehended was out of the question. 

The Labour Exchange project interfered with 
nothing that formed part of the existing system. Its 
proposal was to establish a centre of ex change, in 
which eve ry worker wh o_pr_Qduced_any thing, of ex- 
changeable value might dispose of it, and receive its 
vaTue in time'^hotes. The matcriarihat had to be 
p'urchased^was^ paid for in these notes at market value, 
and the time spent in its manufacture calculated at 
the rate of 6d. per hour. Suppose the article to be a 
pair of shoes, the value of the material 3s. 6d., and 
the time occupied in making them seven hours. In 
material, leather, &c., and labour, this would bring 
the value up to 7s., which would be paid in the cur- 
rency of the exchange in fourteen sixpenny notes. 

2& LifCy Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 


With these the maker of the shoes might purchase, in 
the exchange, material for the continuing of his work, 
and food for his family. While he was engaged in 
making boots or shoes, other people were employed 
in producing things needed by him, in depositing them 
as he had done, and taking home for their use the 
shoes he had made. There need be no limit to the 
operations carried on in such an establishment, nor 
need there be any idleness among the people con- 
nected with it, so long as there is a want that can be 
supplied by mutual interchange. 

In such a system every unemployed hand might be 
brought into employment, every particle of skill util- 
ized to supply a demand otherwise non-existent, and 
the absence of which implied terrible suffering. In 
this way labour is exchanged for labour, and so long 
as men can produce what they mutually require, want, 
in the ordinary meaning of the term, would be un- 
known. This is the idea that was entertained by 
Robert Owen and his fellow-labourers. 

The carrying out of this plan was in the nature of 
things a difficult task and required a larger capital, 
and at first, no doubt, a more matured experience 
than was possessed by its most ardent advocates. The 
organisation of a primary establishment in London 
could not but be costly. At first, only the working 
classes were likely to take an interest in the move- 
ment, and capital was the thing they were least likely 
to possess. Large premises would have to be taken 
and fitted up, men acquainted with the value of the 
different goods brought in for exchange would have 
to be engaged, and money wherewith to procure a stock 
of various kinds of raw material would be necessary. 

Plan of Labour Exchange, 29 

There would also be needed an office at which 
money at a moderate discount might be given for 
notes when the holders could not procure what they 
required on the spot. Ordinary articles of food ought 
to be added for the convenience of members, that the 
notes might not be carried out of the institution to 
neighbouring traders who might be disposed to take 
them at an injurious depreciation. As a matter of 
course the managers would be under no compulsion 
to receive whatever might be brought to them. They 
might refuse any article in which they were already 
over-stocked, or any article not in general or frequent 
demand. Indeed, one of the chief duties of the man- 
agement would be to keep constant watch over the 
proportions of the stock. In this system it need not 
be supposed that every one of the evils growing out 
of want of employment could be overcome. There 
are many employments in which those who work do 
not produce what could be exchanged in such a place, 
but all who labour in the production of articles in 
common use among the masses of the people would 
not need to spend their time in idleness. 

It is no objection to say that in great manufactur- 
ing establishments the articles exchanged could be 
made more economically than under a system of 
domestic industry; because in this case they would be 
the produce of a skill and industry that would other- 
wise be utterly wasted. They would not be made for 
competing markets, but for their own special market, 
and would not be made at all if this special mode of 
exchanging them to the advantage of the producer 
and consumer were not in operation. Once such a 
system as this was fairly established it would be 

30 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

above the accidents of financial disarrangements. 
Whether a panic was brought on by over-trading, or 
bank-breaking, or war, or any other cause, the v^ants 
of the people could be satisfied, so long as they pre- 
served a method of exchanging what they produced. 

Had the capital at the command of Robert Owen 
been sufficient, it is almost certain that the business 
ability which secured to him a uniform success in all 
his private undertakings would have carried him 
safely through his labour exchange experiment. This 
not being the case, he was forced to do the best he 
could with the means at his disposal. One writer 
gives a description of the Labour Exchange, in which 
there is not one of its features truly represented, the 
description, has not even the exaggerated resemblance 
of a caricature. In principle and detail it is miscon- 
ception ^ from beginning to end. 

The idea of the Labour Exchange was explained in 
Owen's report to the County Lanark, issued on May 
1st, 1820 ; and again in the report of the proceedings 
in Dublin, in 1823. It had been extensively discussed 
in the public press, especially in the Crisis. 

At the Co-operative Congress held in the May of 
1832, Owen submitted a report to the meeting which 
is thus noticed under the head of " Exchange Labour 
Bank:'* "Mr. Owen then observed, that to render 
their operations effective, money, which formed the 
sinews of war, was requisite. He then submitted a 
report, containing a proposal for facilitating and secur- 
ing the exchange of labour for equal labour." Indeed 
the matter had been the subject of close and careful 
consideration for several years, and it was not 

.1 Sargant's " Robert Owen and His Philosophy," p. 303. 

Plan of Labour Exchange. 31 

commenced until it had been gone over in its minutest 
details by those who projected it, and who were 
anxious for its success. 

Owen did nothing haphazard, or without requisite 
deliberation. Robert Dale Owen says : " My father 
found the political economists urging a reduction of 
taxes as a cure for existing evils ; but his experience 
taught him to regard that as a mere temporary 
palliative. The very reduction of Government bur- 
dens might be taken as an all-sufficient plea for the 
further reduction of wages. Labour could be afforded 
for less. And down to the very point at which it can 
be afforded, which means at that point on the road to 
famine at which men are not starved suddenly, but 
die slowly of toil inadequately sustained by scanty 
and unwholesome food, down to that point of 
bare subsistence, my father saw the labourer of 
Britain thrust. How ? Wherefore ? By what leger- 
demain of cruelty and injustice ? Thus the problem 
loomed upon him. We may imagine his reflections. 
Why, as the world advances in knowledge and power, 
do the prospects and the comforts of the mass of 
mankind darken and decline? How happens it that 
four or five centuries have passed over Britain, bring- 
ing peace where raged feuds and forays, affording 
protection to person and property, setting free the 
shackled press, spreading intelligence and liberality, 
reforming religion, and fostering civilisation ; how 
happens it that these centuries of improvement have 
left the British labourer twofold more the slave of 
toil than they found him? Why must mechanical 
inventions — inevitable, even if they were mischievous, 
and in themselves a rich blessing as surely as they are 

32 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

inevitable — stand in array against the labourer in- 
stead of toiling by his side?" "Momentous questions 
these ! '* exclaims the son, " my father pondered them 
day and night." They were constantly with him, and 
all that he said and did was the result of long thought 
and painful anxiety, never hurried, if for no other 
reason than that everything he undertook was delayed 
in its prosecution and robbed of its best chances of 
success by want of means and of preparedness among 
the people. Noyes ^ says that Josiah Warren com- 
municated his views on "Labour Exchange" to 
Owen at New Harmony, in 1826. The reply to this 
is, as already stated, that Owen had published his 
views on " Labour Exchange" in 1820. It would be 
useless to attempt any refutation of the multitude of 
absurd things written on this project. It no doubt 
had its shortcomings, as most untried projects have, 
and it is certain that blunders were m«ade at the 
beginning which were checked and corrected as ex- 
perience begot knowledge. But the idea was simple, 
namely, to deposit manufactured goods, raw material, 
provisions, and so forth, receive their value in labour 
notes, representing time, at the rate of sixpence per 
hour, and then purchase with these notes anything 
the holder of them might require that was in stock. 
On the exchanges made, for the purpose of covering 
expense of management, a percentage was charged, so 
that with the exception of this charge, which was 
slight, everything that passed from the hands of one 
man to another went at the cost of production, plus 
8^ per cent, or a penny in the shilling, which was the 
charge made as commission. 

^ ** History of American Socialism," page 95. 

Plan of Labour Exchange, 33 

At the outset Robert Owen had to contend against 
the impatience of his followers. He held them back 
as long as he could, but, as in such a business en- 
thusiasm is worth a good deal, he had to give way, 
and commence before the necessary preparation could 
be completed. The building in which the business 
was carried on, and which was large and convenient, 
belonged to a man, who, under pretence of enthusiasm 
in the cause of labour, pressed it on them, free of rent. 
When this man saw how successful the undertaking 
was, his enthusiasm gave way to thoughts of self- 
interest, which led to a demand for ;^i,700 a year for 
rent and taxes. Up to this the success of the 
undertaking had been very encouraging. Even in 
their almost unprepared state they were doing a 
business of about ;^i,ooo a week, and this would have 
rapidly extended, had time been given before a 
demand so unexpected and heavy was made. In the 
reports which the Cri!sis gave of the progress of the 
business, it is stated several times that the doors had 
to be closed to check a pressure of custom for which 
they were not prepared. In fact, everything being 
new to those engaged in conducting the project, the 
large number of transactions puzzled and confused 
the attendants, and frequently bred discontents that 
were, however, rapidly giving way to a better 
understanding, when the landlord, who had con- 
ceived the idea of possessing himself of the premises 
and the business, took possession of the bazaar in 
Grays Inn-road, and turned the Exchange business 
and those who were transacting it into the streets. 

It is true that its managers should not have com- 
menced their undertaking till they had full legal 
VOL. IL e 

34 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

security for continued possession of the building in 
which it was to be carried on ; but in such a move- 
ment there must be much real generosity, much mutual 
confidence among its most active friends, and it is not 
surprising that pretended beneficence should occasion- 
ally be used to cloak interested and sordid motives. 


Causes of jfailure. 

The Labour Exchange Bazaar was a failure, and it 
became so when, by improvement in its working and 
rapidity in its growth, it gave the fairest promise of 
success. So far as manufactured articles were con- 
cerned, there could be no question that it even sur- 
passed the expectations of its projectors. Men filled 
up their spare time and taxed their ingenuity to pro- 
duce something of exchangeable value. The notes 
given for the goods deposited, were used by the holders 
for the purchase of whatever they might require. 
Everything was marked at the price at which it was 
valued, with a separate ticket stating the amount of 
the 8i per cent, charged to cover the cost of the trans- 

When the people got to understand the routine of 
the business, complaints ceased. The officials could 
have no motive for under or over-valuing the goods 
brought to them. There was no private interest at 
work, and, therefore, no private purpose could be 
served by any description of false or fraudulent deal- 
ing. Everything was open to depositor and purchaser. 
Yet every person who in any way had suffered disap- 
pointment in any transaction, had the use of the public 
press for the purpose of attacking the institution, and 

36 LifCy Times, and Labours of Robert Ozven, 

as a matter of course this was taken advantage of, 
more particularly by those who did not realise, in 
connection with their exchanges, advantages which 
the institution was never meant to confer. 

Nor was this all. Up and down London, in districts 
where the working people most resorted for the pur- 
pose of marketing, shop-keepers announced their 
establishments as having adopted the labour exchange 
system, and large numbers of people, not being aware 
of the fraud, had to pay for their ignorance. In this 
way the officials of the bazaar were called upon not 
only to defend their own proceedings, but to defend 
themselves from attacks brought on by the proceed- 
ings of dishonest traders. Such impediments, how- 
ever, could only have lasted for a time. As the public 
became better acquainted with the nature of the 
establishment in Gray's Inn Road, they would have 
disappeared, and 'the institution would have had a 
vigorous growth. 

There were, however, two drawbacks for which the 
enemies of the Exchange were not accountable, and 
which will have to be carefully guarded against if any 
future attempt should be made to organise such a 
system. The first thing required is that the labourer, 
or worker, should be provided with the means of pro- 
ducing. That is, that in addition to his skill and his 
time, food and raw material should be supplied to 
him. At Gray's Inn Road, though an attempt was 
made to do this, it failed, partly through lack of 
accommodation, principally through want of capital. 
An attempt was made to add green-groceries, meat, 
and bread, by arrangement with tradesmen who dealt 
in these articles, payment to be half in labour notes 

Causes of Failure. 37 

and half in money ; but it did not work satisfactorily. 
The most necessary kinds of raw material should have 
been kept in stock, and in order that they might be sup- 
plied to members at the lowest price, should have 
been purchased in large quantity in the wholesale 
market ; but an arrangement for turning notes into 
current coin was established, so that purchases might 
be made outside the bazaar. This was so much of a 
deviation from the original plan that it could only be 
justified by such a lack of capital as would indicate a 
dangerous financial weakness. 

Had the machinery been complete, and the capital 
sufficient, every working man in London, and through- 
out the country, might have been exempt from want 
of employment, except through illness, intemperance, 
or indolence. Nothing need have been disturbed. 
The labour exchange project did not carry in it a 
revolution of displacement ; that the old order might 
give place to an entirely new condition of industry. 
It simply sought to prevent poverty, distress, and dis- 
content ; to put a stop to the misery .by which the 
homes of the workers were invaded, whenever slack- 
ness in business rendered powerless the hands of those 
without whose labour bread could not be procured. 

Mr. Sargant tells his readers ^ that " Owen himself 
felt that the scheme had not proved to be what he in- 
tended. He said that really in this its first stage — its 
infant and imperfect state — it was little better than a 
superior pawnbroking establishment, but that he hoped 
it was proceeding to the second stage of a retail trade, 
and that it would eventually become a wholesale 
trade ; a great falling off from first expectations." 
}^ " Robert Owen and His Philosophy," p 315. 

38 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

This passage does not represent Owen's meaning. 
He was speaking of the first imperfect stage of a plan 
that was improving in a most hopeful manner, and he 
in no way expresses disappointment. On the con- 
trary, he described the progress as highly satisfactory; 
not at the beginning all that could be wished, because 
the means to make it so were not in his possession, 
but moving in a right direction ; the branch at Black- 
friars more particularly was from the commencement 
in a condition to pay its own expenses. 

It is difficult to account for the narrow spirit of op- 
position in which this most legitimate and important 
experiment was criticised. There could be no possible 
harm in enabling the working people to exchange 
with each other, for their mutual benefit, the products 
of their industry. No economic principle was attacked 
nor was any interest interfered with. It would have 
utilised time, which must have been otherwise wasted; 
it would have increased wealth, which has a tendency 
to diminish during periods of commercial depression ; 
it would have tended to preserve habits of industry, 
which at such seasons suffer injury ; and, so far as its 
influence was felt, it would in every true sense of the 
word have been wholesome and profitable ; and yet 
during the whole time it was carried on, it was made 
the subject of ridicule and misrepresentation. It may 
now be difficult to believe in the existence of a deter- 
mination on the part of any particular class of men to 
designedly oppose or suppress such an undertaking. 
It must be remembered, however, that at the time 
when the experiment was made, associations for public 
purposes among the working people were only be- 
ginning to make their influence felt Trade unions 

Causes of Failure, 39 

were in their infancy, but were seriously feared by the 
manufacturing and trading classes. The 1832 reform 
agitation was over, but it had called out popular 
vehemence as an element in political discussion, a 
circumstance not very generally regarded with favour. 
A very determined movement was even at the moment 
on foot for an untaxed press, with a view to popular 
education for political purposes. The friends of 
Robert Owen, such as Henry Hetherington, James 
Watson, and John Cleave, were the leading actors in 
the cheap press movement, and were warmly sup- 
ported by Owen's followers. In whatever way the 
prejudice arose, there can be no doubt it existed, and 
that, in consequence, Owen had to defend himself and 
his proceedings against misrepresentation and attack, 
in a way that occupied his time, and impeded the pro- 
gress of that which he was seeking to carry out. 

When the parent exchange left Gray's Inn Road, it 
removed, after a temporary sojourn at the Surrey 
Institute, Blackfriars, to Charlotte Street, Fitzroy 
Square, but the inconvenience and interruption to 
business proved fatal when taken in connection with 
the inadequate capital with which so large an under- 
taking had to be carried on. A resolute fight was 
made, but whatever the object of any undertaking, 
the business conditions of success must be present, 
and in this case they were not present. The want of 
money stood in the way of all improvements. No 
important difficulty could be overcome ; no pressing 
want supplied ; and, in such a state of things, what- 
ever the zeal of the projectors, the general public fear 
inconvenience, and decline help even in cases where 
they regard success as desirable. 

40 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

Those who have taken the trouble to study the plan 
of the labour exchange can hardly entertain a doubt 
as to the great benefit it was capable of conferring on 
the community, and on the working portion of the 
people in particular. It may now be said that the 
more forward condition of the co-operative store 
movement is rapidly preparing the people for it ; and 
it is not too much to add that at no very distant time 
it is likely to receive a new trial, which, with the help 
of the store organisation, could hardly fail to be a 
success. A prepared public opinion, and abundant 
money power, will be capable of accomplishing much, 
when the public comprehend more fully the power of 
association and the fitness of the co-operative idea for 
grappling with the industrial evils which now seem to 
defy cure. 

In one of his addresses in 1832, Robert Owen 
spoke of the Labour Exchange, then being tried in 
Gray's Inn Road, as a kind of bridge over which the 
people might pass into a more secure condition of 
life ; but it may be said : 

They tried the abyss on wings unskilled, 

.That wilful generation ; 
Their children sound, and mete, and build. 

On deep and piled foundation. 
With slow increase of arch to arch, 

Across the dreary region, 
A bridge to bear the onward march 

Of many a victor legion. 

The great difficulty, however, in all these early ex- 
periments, was the lack of wider knowledge and 
higher motives on the part of the masses. The 
leaders were for the most part intelligent and earnest 


Causes of Failure, 41 

but a multitude of the followers expected to give little 
and receive much ; and it does not require any large 
number of such to lower the character and im- 
pede the progress of any movement. Few men 
could have come out of such failures as Owen did, 
without suspicion or stain. The hopes that inspired 
him were genuine, and he was always personally a 
loser by the experiments he tried. But when the' 
losses incurred by him, his friends, and followers, are 
counted up, they are as nothing in the gross to the 
failure of many a single trading firm in the ordinary 
business of the world. Robert Owen had one 
object in view, but he never brought himself to 
the belief that there was only one way of attain- 
ing it The co-operative stores and the labour ex- 
change were methods of approaching it, nothing 
more ; and when these failed they were only failures 
in method ; and, hence, he and his friends again set 
to work, in as strong a belief as ever that the condi- 
tion of society led to the existence of needless evils 
and unnecessary suffering, and that it was the duty of 
men to labour for its improvement In this faith 
they entered on the socialistic campaign which in its 
progress attracted so much attention and caused so 
much alarm to people, who, if they had known more, 
would have feared less. 


preparations^ *lew movements. 

Before entering on what may be regarded as the 
last great effort made by Robert Owen on behalf of 
the people, it may not be out of plaee to refer briefly 
to certain previous events. 

The Store Movement was commenced about 1822. 
The Labour Exchange in 1832. In 1834 the Labour 
Exchange effort may be regarded as closed, but in 
1835 Robert Owen was again active in the cause of the 
working people. 

The New Moral Wor/d w^s then in the first year 
of its existence, and in its columns may be found a 
record of the activity with which the efforts originated 
by Owen were carried on. At page 348, vol. i, are 
the minutes of a meeting, held at the Exchequer 
Coffee-House, Palace Yard, Westminster, on August 
II, 183s, Lord Dudley Stewart in the chair. The 
object of the meeting was to consider the practicability 
of adopting measures to give permanent useful 
employment and instruction to all who were incapable 
of obtaining such employment and instruction for 
themselves. At this meeting, Mr Thomas Attwood, 
of Birmingham, was the principal speaker, and being 
the first to address the meeting, he expressed his 
belief that some part of the plans recommended by 
Robert Owen might be carried into execution through 

Preparations. New Movements. 43 

the means of a joint-stock company. There was 
considerable discussion on this, and a committee was 
appointed to take into consideration the various 
proposals and suggestions made, and Messrs. Owen, 
Altwood, and James Braby were appointed as a sub- 
committee to report, which they did at a meeting of 
the general committee, held at the same place, on 
August 19, Thomas Wyse, M.P., in the chair. This 
report is a well-drawn document, and contains much 
in reference to the actual condition of the country at 
that time that is well worth reproducing. 

About this time the country was reduced almost to 
hopelessness by its pauper system. The only cure 
suggested by the usual counsellors consisted in 
sweeping those who needed relief, and applied for it, 
into the workhouses, and rigidly denying relief to 
those who would not enter these abodes of misery. 
The report above referred to contains the following 
words: "Your sub-committee perceived at once that 
the subject could not be understood until the cause of 
the evil was ascertained ; for without such knowledge, 
it would be impossible to provide an efficient 
permanent remedy. From the information which is 
patiently collected, it found that there was no profit- 
able employment for a large amount of the capital 
which is daily accumulating in the hands of com- 
paratively few over-grown wealthy individuals, whether 
landed proprietors, manufacturers, commercial men, 
or great capitalists, trading on public securities, 
domestic and foreign. It also found that under the 
present system of individual competition, no large 
additional amount of capital could be beneficially 
employed in the extension of agriculture, manu- 

44 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

factures, or commerce ; that there was, in each of these 
departments, much unemployed labour wasting most 
injuriously for all parties ; and that the professions 
were over-supplied with young applicants, seeking the 
means of very humble support. . . . Your sub- 
committee was also convinced that it will prove a 
waste of the most valuable powers possessed by 
society to attempt any longer to sustain a system, 
which the inventions, discoveries, and improvements 
of the age have rendered impracticable to maintain, 
except by the hourly increasing misery and degrada- 
tion of the millions of the producers of wealth and 
consequent danger of non-producers. . . . Your 
sub-committee soon decided that evil only, to an 
incalculable extent, would arise to all parties by the 
mass being induced to look for relief from the 
possession of the wealth already created and possessed 
by individuals. It must be evident to those who 
reflect, that, if all the wealth now in existence were to 
be divided equally between the population of the 
world, without arrangements being made to produce 
more, that almost all this population would, for want 
of the necessaries of life, be in less than two years 
starved out of existence. This wealth has been 
slowly creating, through many centuries : and were it 
to be violently destroyed, and men ignorant of the 
effects of such a combination, were to attempt to 
govern the empire, the greatest disorder and misery 
would inevitably ensue." 

The report goes on to state that whatever was 
attempted should be done in a sound knowledge of 
the facts, by the application of funds raised in the 
form of joint-stock company investments, and adds, 

Preparations, hiew Movements. 45 

as a suggestion, that should emigration from this 
country become at any time necessary, individuals 
properly trained and selected from the establishments 
it was proposed to create, would be the best people 
for forming colonies abroad. No inducement seemed 
strong enough to draw from the wealthy classes the 
aid required for the improvement of the poor. The 
report, signed by Thomas Attwood, Robert Owen, 
and James Braby, was issued by the committee that 
appointed them, but the response was not such as to 
encourage further action. 

The new Poor-law Act was relied on, and a great 
saving was made in the rates. The disease of 
pauperism was driven in, and the State doctors, like 
practical men, congratulated themselves on the 
improvement that had taken place. With all the 
wealth producing power they had obtained they could 
not manage to feed an industrious people who were 
ready to work, but they could manage to save the 
rates by imprisoning and starving paupers, and as the 
saving of the rates was the main thing to be desired, 
there ensued a tiding-over and a content which gave 
tolerably general satisfaction, where the convenience 
of the rate-paying portion of the public was the first 
and principal consideration. 

The movement did not absolutely languish, though 
little of any consequence was done to enlist the 
attention of the public. In London, Owen delivered 
lectures at Burton Rooms, Burton-crescent, on the 
best means of trying a practical experiment on the 
land, with a view to the education and employment 
of the people. The real starting point, however, of the 
Socialist agitation was Manchester. Without the 

46 Life, TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen. 

newspaper press, in those days nothing could be 
effectually done in London ; small meetings held in 
the various districts of the metropolis might keep a 
belief alive, but could not spread it. In Manchester 
where the industrial evils complained of were acutely 
felt, and where the intercourse among great bodies of 
men was more complete, the case was different, and 
the words of Owen and his followers carried a meaning 
and significance which caused them to be taken to 
heart. It is true that those who entered on the new 
form of the agitation were, with few exceptions, 
working men, and entirely without influence; but 
they deal with matters belonging to their own lives 
and experience. They had not to go out of their 
own homes and workshops to find their facts, 
arguments, or illustrations, and their earnestness and 
zeal were stimulated by what they suffered themselves, 
and what they saw others suffer ; by the desire to lift 
the poor and ignorant into the condition of an intelli- 
gent and decent manhood. Living in a world of new 
industrial developments, they saw not only that old 
evils were perpetuated, but that there were daily 
coming into existence new ones that foreboded the 
worst consequences, not only to themselves and their 
class, but to society generally ; and they determined 
to fight against these by every legitimate means in 
their power. 

The movement with which I am now about to deal 
began, as I have already stated, in Manchester. A store 
had been started in Oldfield-road, Salford, of which 
I myself was a member, but as we were for the most 
part young unmarried men, it was not in our power to 
to be good customers to our own business* We were, 

Preparations, New Movements, 47 

as far as I can remember, utterly inexperienced, and 
it is, therefore, more than likely that the goods we 
offered for sale had little or no attraction, either on 
the ground of price or quality. We, nevertheless, 
went resolutely on, making no profit, yet not losing 
much on the business we did. This, if I am not 
mistaken, was in 1831, and when we discovered that 
we were not likely to make any headway, we prudently 
decided to wind up, and set to work in a different 
fashion. Wc had counters and shelves, and a few 
tables and chairs, so we took a couple of large rooms, 
close to St Philip's Church, and opened a school for 
the instruction of boys and girls, and of such adults as 
might think it worth their while to learn what we 
were able to teach. We had among us two carpenters, 
who were found useful in turning the shelves and 
counters into desks and forms, and in a short time our 
night school was ready for the reception of pupils. 

We taught drawing, music, singing, and dancing, 
in addition to all the ordinary branches of tuition, 
my own position being that of writing master. We 
drew up a small handbill, which was distributed 
among the houses of the working people in the 
neighbourhood, and when this was done, we made a 
house-to-house visitation, begged the people to send 
their children, and if possible, to come themselves. 
The result of this was that in six months after we 
opened the school we had no fewer than 170 scholars 
oif both sexes, who were steady and regular in their 
attendance, and whose ages ranged from about twelve 
to forty. No charge was made, nor did any of the 
teachers receive any remuneration. The majority of 
the pupils were factory girls and boys, but I can 

48 LifCy Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

recollect mechanics of mature years learning to write, 
with a desperate determination to be successful, 
though the difficulty was great. 

We carried this school on for six years, during 
which time we also held Sunday meetings at which 
essays were read and lectures delivered, having 
reference chiefly to the condition of society, the 
changes that were taking place, the further changes 
that in the interest of labour were desirable, and the 
duties of the working portion of the population in 
connection with these. 

The first two or three years of our co-operative 
effort were the busiest years in promoting and carry- 
ing the Reform Bill of 1832. I need scarcely say, 
that, as young men taking an interest in advanced 
thought, we were zealous political reformers, Man- 
chester and Salford having then no parliamentary 
representation. This was also the time at which the 
struggle for an untaxed newspaper press began. 
Many of us were active in this agitation, and in pro- 
moting sound legislation. Those who were disposed 
to work found plenty to do, and for those who joined 
in the cry for education, factory legislation, social 
reform, and freedom of thought in matters of religious 
faith, there was little else than calumny and abuse ; 
and it must be confessed that many of those most 
active in this regard themselves, were working people, 
though it is fair to state that they were among the 
most ignorant of their class. 

Though the improvement which has taken place 
since then is not all that it might have been, it is so great 
that most men of the present day would find it diffi- 
cult to realise the brute indifference, and the blind 

Preparations, New Movements. 49 

hostility, with which the social and industrial refor- 
mers of the earlier part of the present century had to 
contend. A very considerable advance had been 
made on the condition of things in which Church and 
King mobs had their origin. The working people 
generally were acquiring knowledge, and were fast 
becoming independent and liberal thinkers, but there 
was a frightful residuum of gross ignorance and of the 
multiform brutality by which ignorance among the 
masses of the people is always attended. Multitudes 
were willing to sell their votes — where they possessed 
them, as freemen, in the old Parliamentary boroughs 
— and where they had no votes their violent opposi- 
tion to liberal men was obtainable by drunkenness, 
and by the excitement of party passion. 

In regard to the employment of their children in 
factories, the conduct of many of the working people 
was as bad as it could be. Habit in this matter had 
utterly brutalised large numbers, and improvidence 
and poverty tended to confirm evil habits. The 
masses of the factory workers were ignorant and poor, 
and they were assured by those interested in keeping 
them so, that any reduction in the hours of labour, or 
any change in the treatment of children that added to 
the cost of production, would inevitably lower wages, 
and, as this meant a deepening of their poverty, they 
looked upon the advocates of short time in the factor- 
ies as their enemies. To this it was added that what 
we were recommending would drive the trade out of 
the country into the hands of foreigners, and, clumsy 
as this device was, and untrue as it has proved, the 
Ignorant and brutalised portion of the population had 
come to believe that if they did not continue to sell 


5o Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

their children, body and soul, at the lowest figure, 
they themselves would suffer loss, and the trade of 
the country be ruined. Such persons did not, as a 
matter of course, patronise the cheap, unstamped 
press. Knowledge was, above all other things, what 
they did not desire, but, as the battle went on, these 
gradually, and especially the young, rising generation, 
came over to the side of justice and reason, and the old 
political and industrial masters had to give way be- 
fore a reasoning they could not answer, and a force 
they were unable to resist. 

A specimen of the manner in which what was 
called the Socialism of the day was combated was 
published at that time, as having been sung at St. 
Phillip's Sunday School, Salford, on Whit-Monday, 
May 23, 1 83 1. St Phillip's Church, when we first 
began our co-operative labours in Salford, had, as it 
were, a special duty to perform in counteracting the 
new and dangerous doctrines which we had the auda- 
city to propagate within a stone-throw of the parson- 
age. My readers will understand how suitable the 
following song must have been to the kind of people 
I have just described : — 

Here's a health now to honest John Bull, 

When he's gone we shan't find such another ; 
Here's a health to old honest John Bull, 

Here's a health to old England his mother. 
She gave him a good education, 

Bid him stick to his Church and his King, 
To be loyal and true to the nation, 

And then to be merry and sing, 

Fol de rol, &c. 

For John is a good hearty fellow, 
Industrious, honest, and brave, 

Preparations, New Movements, 51 

Nor envies his betters, brave fellow, 

For betters he knows he must have. 
There must be fine lords and fine ladies, 

There must be some little, some great. 
Their wealth the support of our trade is, 

Our trade's the support of their state. 

Fol de rol, &c. 

The plough and the loom would stand still, 

If we were made gentlemen all, 
All spinners, or weavers ! who'd fill 

The senate, or pulpit, or hall ; 
" Rights of man " makes a very fine sound. 

Equal riches a plausible tale ; 
But whose labour would then till the ground ? 

All would drink, but who'd brew the ale 1 

Fol de rol, &c. 

Thus naked and starVd in the streets. 

In despair we should wander about. 
Should liberty find us with meat, 

Or equality lengthen our coat. 
That knaves are for lev'ling no wonder, 

You may easily guess at their views ; 
But who would get most of the plunder ? 

Why, those who have nothing to lose ! 

Fol de rol, &c. 

Then away with such nonsense and stuff. 

Full of treason, confusion, and blood, 
Every Briton has freedom enough 

To be happy as long as he's good. 
To be ruled by a merciful king. 

To be govern'd by juries and laws, 
And then to be merry and sing 

This, this is true liberty's cause. 

Fol de rol, &c. 

This IS a sample of the way in which we were 
attacked in verse, and, as might be expected, the 

52 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

attacks in prose were not less lively and well-intended. 
Many specimens of the advice given to working men, 
and the kind of reasoning used, might be given. The 
following is taken from a pamphlet entitled "Ten 
Minutes' Advice to Labourers," published by Hatchard 
and Son. After cautioning the poor against gamb- 
ling, gin-drinking, and drunkenness generally, the 
writer tells them that they should be industrious, 
economical, saving, contented with their station, care- 
ful how they marry ; that they should not grumble 
about taxes, nor be noisy about reform. Then the 
following satisfactory explanation of the world's deep- 
est puzzles is given : — " It should also be remembered 
that, except a rich man locks up his money — a very 
rare case, indeed — he pays away his income to ser- 
vants, labourers, and tradespeople, who again lay out 
the money in food and clothes for their families ; so 
that, in fact, a division is at present made of his pro- 
perty among the poor, though not, indeed, an equal 
one. But all forced attempts at equalising property 
have ever failed in producing the end designed, and 
must ever fail, for it is as much a law of nature that 
some should be rich, and some should be poor, as 
that some should be tall, and some should be short" 
The writer then goes on to say, " It is the will of God 
that everything in this world should be liable to 
change — the sun does not always shine ; a rainy day 
must come. Sickness will succeed to health, want to 
plenty. Those changes have happened in all times 
and countries, and no doubt will continue to take 
place as long as the world lasts. Many, however, are 
too apt to spend all they get in drinking and intem- 
perance, perfectly indifferent as to the future, the con- 

Preparations. New Movements. $3 

sequence of which is, when work is scarce and wages 
low, they are reduced to great want and^distress ; then 
they are ready to find fault with the times, the laws, 
the governments, &c." 

We were always ready with our replies to this sort 
of criticism. We knew that the people who resorted 
to such shifts were not themselves deceived by them, 
and that in speaking of the poverty and sufferings of 
the people as Providential arrangements they were 
hypocritically disgracing religion, and destroying its 
influence for good among the people. We felt this 
very strongly, and did not hesitate to say so, though, 
for doing this, we incurred much blame from such as 
believe that the true policy in relation to the evils of 
society [is to hoodwink the people and leave to time 
the cure of all the wrongs by which men are afflicted. 
I need not say that the ideas such opponents ascribed 
to Robert Owen and his friends were not those held 
by them. It was order, not anarchy, they sought for ; 
and it was justice, not an impossible and absurd 
equality, they laboured to establish. 

The Congress of 1836 was held in London, but no- 
thing of a practical character was attempted. Dele- 
gates were sent from Manchester, who brought back 
favourable reports as to what had been talked about 
and done, with which we were not quite satisfied. We 
had among us in Manchester more life and energy, 
united to an active system of teaching. We possessed 
a number of men who had proved their fitness to 
teach, and we were, therefore, determined to throw 
ourselves into the movement and try whether or not 
we could secure a substantial following, with a view 
to further effort on behalf of the working people. 


Hditation in /IDancbester. 

Between the London Congress of 1836 and the 
Congress held in Salford in 1837, there was a great 
activity in Manchester. Robert Owen visited the 
town and delivered lectures at several places in the 
district. Not only were there crowded audiences in 
the New Hall, in Salford, but a three years' engage- 
ment had been made to occupy every Sunday a large 
new hall in Peter Street, Manchester, and this, which 
held about three thousand people, was always full. 

Nothing of the kind had ever been tried before in 
the mannfacturing districts. There were doctrines, 
practical projects, and a continuous teaching by men 
appointed for the purpose by a solidly-organised 
association. A good band of music was formed, 
singers were drilled, a hymn book published, a form 
of service arranged, and everything connected with 
the Sunday meetings was orderly and decent. First, 
a hymn was sung, then a lesson read, a hymn again 
sung, an address delivered, discussion invited, ap- 
plause or disapprobation being strictly prohibited, 
and when the time allotted to this had expired, 
another hymn was sung, and the proceedings were 
brought to a close. 

The people attracted to these meetings, as well as 

Agitation in Manchester, 55 

those who constituted the membership of the associa- 
tion, were, as a rule, the most respectable portion of 
the working classes, with a fair sprinkling of the most 
thoughtful and independent of the shopkeeping and 
middle class. Those who wished to join were 
entered as members, and became active in forwarding 
the work in hand. Nothing as immediate advantage 
was held out to those who joined the society. On^the 
contrary, they were called on to pay regular weekly 
subscriptions, and to assist in many ways that in- 
volved trouble and expense. People from the sur- 
rounding districts flocked into Manchester and 
Salford on Sundays, and during the week-days held, 
in their own neighbourhoods, meetings which were 
usually addressed by deputations from Manchester. 
After a little time good rooms were opened in every 
town and village of any size, lectures and discussions 
were commenced, and brought into the field active 
young men, who, in this way, had opportunities of 
forming and uttering opinions in connection with 
this new awakening of the people. 

It was not a sudden outburst of enthusiasm calling 
for nothing but the excitement of the moment to give 
it strength. The first thing it protested against was 
the ignorance of the people, and the vices that sprang 
from and flourished in this ignorance. Drunkenness, 
swearing, dog-fighting, man-fighting, and violence of 
whatever kind were attacked. The factory owners 
were condemned for taking no care for the educa- 
tional and moral welfare of the people. The clergy 
of the Established Church, and the ministers of the 
various sectarian chapels were attacked for living 
without protest in the midst of a state of ignorance 

S6 Lifey TimeSy and Labours of Robert Oweti. 

and depravity, which it was their special duty to war 
against, but which was more than half tolerated by 
their mild, conventional, weekly censures. Perhaps, 
in the whole time, between 1816 and 1845, when the 
proposals and plans of Robert Owen were, in one 
form or other, constantly under discussion, there was 
no busier year than 1836. 

Owen, himself, made an extensive lecturing tour, 
taking in all the manufacturing districts, from 
London to the West of Scotland. Writing from 
Manchester, on February i6th, 1837, he says: — "On 
Saturday morning I left Birmingham and found my- 
self comfortably in my old quarters with my friend, 
Mr. E — , at Stony Knolls, about a mile from 
Manchester, at nine o'clock in the evening. The 
next morning our friends from Salford came to me to 
say that I was expected to deliver a lecture in their 
new large room, Peter Street, in the evening. I went 
there accordingly, and to my surprise, I found an 
audience of certainly not less than two thousand 
persons. It is a fine, spacious, magnificent room for 
the purpose. It is, as I am informed, the largest 
public room in Manchester." 

The True Sun, one of the London daily papers, 
gave the following notice of the lecture :■ — 

" On Sunday evening last, Robert Owen delivered 
a lecture in Bywater's Room, Manchester, to an 
audience of two thousand persons, upon his peculiar 
doctrines, He was listened to with considerable 
attention, and concluded by courting discussion, upon 
which Mr. Hewett, a gentleman of some literary 
attainments, rose and catechised Mr. Owen in a very 
clever and lucid manner, and, we think, evinced a 

Agitation in Manchester. 5^ 

very sound knowledge of his subject. However, the 
venerable lecturer never lost that amiable equilibrium 
of temper which is such a distinguishing trait of his 

I insert this paragraph, as, in connection with the 
agitation of Owen, it should be remembered how free 
his language and manner were from anger or hos- 
tility ; how anxious he was to impress on friends and 
opponents the necessity of dealing calmly, though 
resolutely, with the evils against which he protested. 
And it is right to add that his friends, as far as they 
could, followed his example by accepting the most 
adverse criticism even gross misrepresentation, and 
occasionally violent abuse, without angry retaliation, 
or any protest, beyond what was necessary to check 
uncalled-for insult, or to vindicate their principles and 

The spirit that had for some time been growing in 
Manchester and its neighbourhood, was now taken 
advantage of. A double course of lectures during the 
week were delivered by Robert Owen, besides which 
the Sunday lectures were more than usually crowded. 
The press took the matter up, and while the papers 
of the old Tory type denounced the " socialists " as in 
every way wicked, and as deserving to be hounded 
from society, the liberal papers, the Morning^Adver- 
tiser particularly, were eloquent in praise of Owen 
and his followers. He was at this time sixty-six 
years old, but full of vigour and energy. 

Before Owen commenced his double course of 
lectures, he issued an address on the necessity of united 
action for the promotion of public good. " You live," 
he said, " in the midst of a society altogether different 

S8 Life, Times, and Labour^ of Robert Oweti, 

from that in which your ancestors lived in this district 
one hundred years ago* At that period there was not 
the improved steam engine of Watt, nor Arkwright's 
improved spinning machinery ; the power-loom, mail 
coaches, steamboats, gas lights, steam carriages ; and 
a thousand minor inventions now familiar to you, 
were then unknown. There were no cotton, woollen, 
flax, or silk mills ; there were no children employed 
in mills of machinery ; there were no women taken 
from their domestic duties and from their homes to 
public works. There were no feelings of hatred 
between masters and servants ; there were no poor 
wretches over-exhausted with labour in unhealthy 
atmospheres, doomed in bad times of periodical 
and frequent occurrence to live miserably, or to die 
by slow starvation, while surfsynded by wasteful and 
extravagant luxury ; there wercN light poor rates, and 
all ashamed to apply for theni ; there were many 
holiday periods in the year, much health, and a con- 
siderable degree of rustic enjoyment for the working 
classes, who were then chiefly employed in agriculture, 
living in the family with their employers, and work- 
ing daily with them, or living and working in a 
similar manner." . . . "This change," he goes on 
to say, " has produced many advantages, but it has 
also produced many disadvantages. . . . The 
change from the agricultural system to the manu- 
facturing, commercial, and money-dealing system is 
one of the necessary steps in the progress of what is 
called civilisation." 

In a subsequent paragraph he points to the growth 
of combined action among all classes of the population 
for common purposes, and hails this as one of the 

Agitation in Mancftester, $9 

most promising signs of the time. "Thousands of 
highly advantageous results may be obtained by well- 
concerted union, not one of which would be obtained 
by isolated effort. But society is yet acquainted only 
with the puny operations of the individual system. 
The human mind will be astonished when it shall be 
enabled to compare what is accomplished by conflicting 
individual efforts, with those which may be immediately 
obtained by a well-devised rational system of union." 
Alluding to his proposed lectures, he goes on to say : 
" I propose to show the existing strong necessity for 
the change, and the benefit of it to every class, sect, 
party, country, and colour, as well as the easy means by 
which it maybe commenced, and finally accomplished, 
without the slightest injury to the person, property, 
or conscience, of a single individual. In Manchester, 
the seat of my early aspirations after knowledge, I 
intend giving a full double course of lectures ; in the 
mornings at eleven o'clock, for that class of the 
population who have most leisure ; and the other at 
eight o'clock in the evening, for those who are too 
much engaged in the morning to attend. The pro- 
ceeds of the lectures will be equally divided between 
the Athenaeum and the Mechanics* Institution, 
Manchester." The morning lectures were but thinly 
attended, but the evening lectures were crowded, and 
excited the liveliest interest among the thinking por- 
tion of the working people. 

It has been complained of Owen, that he spoke as 
one with authority, rather than as an inquirer ; but 
those who made this charge should have remembered 
that he had been for at least thirty-six years practically 
experimenting on the two leading points he was most 

6o LifCy Times, and Labours of Robert OweH, 

anxious to enforce : — His theory as to the formation 
of character by education, wisely administered, he had 
demonstrated ata heavy expenditure of money and time, 
and by his experience he had convinced himself that if 
the people would save themselves from the growing 
evils of the new system of manufacture, then becoming 
everywhere established, they must possess themselves 
of the implements of production. The knowledge he 
had acquired during his early life, coupled with his 
special experience in connection with the effort to 
establish Co-operative Stores and with the Labour 
Exchange, had carried him beyond the position of a 
mere inquirer. He was neither dogmatic nor im- 
patient. His manner was never offensive; on the 
contrary, inquiries and disputes which were forced on 
him in a cavilling and contentious spirit, when not met 
by silence, were treated with a respect and attention, 
neither they nor their authors merited. 

During this visit, a discussion took place between 
Owen and a clever young dissenting minister named 
Roebuck. As might have been expected, the dis- 
putants ran side by side, scarcely touching each other 
on any one of the points in dispute. Owen based all 
he had to say on the influence of education on 
character, and on the necessity of so reforming society 
as to secure justice in all conditions of life. - These 
points he enforced with eloquence and earnestness, 
producing a very powerful effect on his audience. 

On the other hand, his opponent, who was also both 
eloquent and earnest, urged nearly everything that 
could be said in favour of freedom of will in the choice 
of doctrine, and the responsibility of man for the 
correctness or error of his opinions and the truth of 

Agitation in Manchester, 6i 

his religious creed. Of the wide range of subjects 
connected with the employment and condition of the 
people he knew nothing, and therefore could say 
little, beyond making a general defence of the existing 
condition of things. 

The activity of Owen, during this part of the year 
of 1837, was the opening of a movement in favour of 
a social and industrial reform in England which since 
that time has borne noble fruit, and which is yet 
filled with noble promise. 

When the annual Congress met at Salford, in the 
May of 1837, ^" active and vigorous agitation was in 
operation in the manufacturing districts. It was 
carried on, however, by purely local effort, and by the 
zeal of a few men who held themselves in readiness to 
answer any call that might be made on them. 

When anyone was needed at any point within 
reasonable distance, to lecture, or to discuss, Man- 
chester was applied to, and some person was sent. As 
a matter of course, as the principles spread the duties 
in this way became heavier, and when the work in the 
school is considered in addition to lecturing and 
discussing, sometimes at a distance of forty or fifty 
miles, it can easily be seen that no man who had 
to earn his own living could carry on such a work 

The Congress had to take this into consideration — 
to find the means whereby the stress should be taken 
off those who had worked unremittingly up to that 
time. It had also to define the constitution and aims 
of the society, so that the character of the work to be 
undertaken and the objects to be achieved should be 
clearly understood by all. The purpose of the 

62 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

agitation could be clearly stated ; what could be 
realised would of course depend to a great extent on 
the amount of public support the agitation might 
receive. There was repeated at theSalford Congress the 
following declaration which had been made two years 
before : " The object of this association is to effect 
peaceably, and by reason alone, an entire change in 
the character and condition of mankind, by establish- 
ing over the world, in principle and practice, the 
religion of charity for the convictions, feelings, and 
conduct of all individuals, combined with a well- 
devised, equitable, and natural system of united 
property ; which united property is to be created by 
the members of the association, without infringing 
upon the rights of any private property now in 
existence. This great change to be introduced and 
accomplished by devising and adopting new arrange- 
ments for forming a superior character for the human 
race ; for producing and distributing in the best 
manner the best qualities of all kinds of wealth 
abundantly for all ; and for governing mankind with- 
out artificial rewards or punishments." 

This was certainly an ambitious undertaking. It 
may occur to some that the terms in which it is 
expressed might have been more moderate and more 
discreetly chosen ; but an effort of the kind was 
needed, and though the result might fall short of the 
somewhat extravagant hopes many might entertain, 
it was better than that nothing should be attempted. 

The method suggested by the Congress was to 
establish a central association with branches extending 
to every part of the world, and by means of this 
central association and its branches to create a new 



Agitation in Manchester, 63 

public opinion in favour of an entire change in the 
character and condition of society, by the aid of 
public meetings, lectures,discussions, missionaries, cheap 
publications, and so forth ; by founding communities in 
which to educate and employ all the members of the 
association, under arrangements favourable to their 
health, intelligence, and happiness. Then follows the 
statement that the association discarded the funda- 
^-^rrors by which the past and present deplorable 

■ ■■.■ WW 

condition of the human race had been produced. 
These fundamental errors are stated to be " that man 
is bad by nature, and that he can believe or disbelieve, 
feel or not feel, as he pleases ; that he forms his own 
character, and that, consequently, he ought to be 
rewarded or punished for it, both in this world and 
the world to come.'' 

It would not be correct to suppose that the Socialists 
at this time entertained the common idea of popular 
education, or that their notions as to the better treat- 
ment of the people simply meant a change whereby 
more leisure and a greater abundance of food and 
other necessaries might be obtained by those who 
worked. They went much further. On the question 
of education, Owen took much trouble to explain 
himself, and, although the most active of those who 
opposed him on religious grounds, mistook and 
sometimes misrepresented him, his followers were 
sound believers in his principles, and regarded the 
education of the people as the first duty of society. 

It was Robert Owen's dream that society might be 
brought to entertain and act on the belief that the 
moral faculties of man had never had the develop- 
ment they were capable of receiving, and while he 

64 Life^ Tiffies, apid Labours of Robert Owen. 

regarded the acquisition of wealth, and its just 
distribution, as necessary to the happiness of men, his 
leading thought was concerned with the attainment 
of the higher moral life in which all things are subordi- 
nate to a sense of duty begot of the recognition of a 
universal brotherhood. He believed in the gains that 
would result from earnest effort in the work of 
education, even in the limited sense 'V r/blrh the term 
was usually understood ; but he, i'*4 StlStHlpntaii 
sidered all that could be accomplished on the ordinary 
plans as trivial and disappointing compared with what 
might be done. 

When the Socialists arranged their plans for the 
establishment of village communities, their first thought 
was directed to the land to be purchased, or held on 
long lease ; their next to the organisation of labour 
on the land, especially of skilled labour in the ordinary 
trades of the country, with the view of making the 
worker the director of, and the cl)iW gainer by, his 
own industry ; of conferring on all th^ best education 
that could be obtained. 

Society was then afflicted, as it is now, by the com- 
petition of individual interests. The multitudes were 
suffering whilst the few were being enriched, and all 
idea of a common interest was disappearing rapidly 
before the growth of personal selfishness. 

The advocates of Socialism were not violent men. 
They had pleged themselves by their public declara- 
tions against violence of every kind. They had made 
known, as widely as they could, and with the strongest 
emphasis, their firm conviction that the wrongs they 
condemned could not be rectified by disturbance of 
the peace. Their constant contention was that reform, 

Agitation in Manchester, 65 

political or social, must be thoughtful, deliberate, and 
peaceful ; that violence is the offspring of impatience 
and ignorance, except where free thought, free speech, 
and the right of association are prohibited ; in which 
case physical force as the natural defence of freedom 
is a necessity that justifies itself. 

'errors bv J 

VOL. II. u 


/ftancbester Congress* J6jtenbeb Morft* 

The Congress of 1837 was well attended. There 
were delegates from many of the important towns in 
Yorkshire and Lancashire, who reported encouragingly 
as to the growth of opinion in favour of co-operation, 
among the people in their various localities, and the 
letters received and read from towns that had not 
sent delegates were also encouraging. 

It was strongly recommended that a system of 
teaching should be organised, and missionaries and 
tracts employed, to make the general public more 
thoroughly acquainted with the principles of Owen. 
A resolution was passed in favour of sending out 
missionaries, and two were appointed ; but as much 
had to be done in the way of mere organisation, no- 
thing further was accomplished in reference to this. 
It was also agreed to enrol the society under the 
4th and 5th of William IV. The form of government 
was likewise the subject of much discussion, and as it 
created more division than any of the questions sub- 
mitted to the Congress, I may describe the point on 
which the dispute arose. 

The ordinary and popular method of governing 
societies was by the election of committees by general 
vote. At this period the habit of association was 

Manchester Congress. Extended Work. 67 

new, and, in the management of popular bodies, led 
to delay, blundering, and endless talk. In the new 
movement it was determined, if possible, to check 
this, and the mode most in favour was to elect at the 
head one man, and in each branch one man, having 
the full confidence of those who elected him. To 
these was to be left the conducting of the society, 
with the aid of a council elected by the members of 
the society, or the branch to which they belonged. The 
chairman, or head man, was to be elected for two or 
three years, or, as the resolution expressed it, until 
a sufficient number of the members acquired the 
knowledge and experience necessary for conducting 
the affairs of the society. It was never questioned 
that the popular method of management was the best, 
but where those engaged in the work undertaken 
were deficient in experience, it was thought a fit 
exercise of the power possessed by the society to place 
it in the hands that could best use it. This has been 
construed into a despotic tendency on the part of 
Robert Owen and his disciples, but it really grew out 
of a desire to adopt the best method of carrying out 
that which they wished to accomplish. Practically, 
by monthly meetings and annual congresses, the 
members had ample power. 

During the Congress, a great meeting of the work- 
ing men of the West Riding of Yorkshire, was held on 
Hartshead Moor, near Huddersfield, for the purpose 
of protesting against the New Poor-Law Bill. The 
numbers attending this meeting are stated at 200,000, 
— an immense gathering, when it is considered that 
most of those present must have travelled miles from 
the surrounding towns. At this meeting a deputation, 

68 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

of which Robert Owen was one, attended from the 
Congress. In accordance with the habit of the news- 
paper press, the speeches were but briefly reported in 
the London papers, and that of Owen was wholly 
omitted. A report of it was, however, given in the 
Mancliester Advertiser, He said he " attended there 
that day not merely to say that he was opposed to 
every part of the New Poor- Law Bill, but also to say 
that he was opposed to every poor-law whatever. 
There ought not now to be a poor-law in this country 
— there ought not to be a necessity for one. There 
might have been a time, years ago, when a poor-law 
was necessary." After denying that the labouring 
classes required the interference of the idle and inex- 
perienced rich to assist them in bettering their con- 
dition, seeing that they had such ample means to that 
end within themselves, he alluded to the following 
circumstance : " I have," he said, " interested myself 
from an early period in the condition of the labouring 
classes. When Mr. Sturges Bourne s committee was 
sitting I presented a report to it, which was admitted 
to be true in every part, and had it been acted upon, 
more than one hundred millions sterling would have 
been saved to the country ere now, and not one child 
need have been left uneducated. I communicated 
the plan contained in this report to the Dutch Am- 
bassador, Mr. Falck, who saw its importance, and 
sent it to his Government, and the present poor 
colonies of Holland are founded upon it. Land was 
provided, and paupers were established thereon to 
cultivate it.'* He also referred to his education scheme, 
which had been communicated by him to the King of 
Prussia, and which, he believed, had in some degree 

Manchester Congress, Extended Work. 6g 

helped to found the first system of national education 
established in Europe. 

The principal speakers at this meeting were Richard 
Oastler, Joseph Rayner Stephens, Robert Owen, 
William Stocks, jun., James B. Bernard, Geo. Flem- 
ing, and Alexander Campbell. These gentlemen 
met at Fixby Hall, the residence of Richard Oastler, 
and published, as the result of their meeting, the fol- 
lowing minute, dated May 17, 1837 : 

" The present extensive and rapidly-increasing dis- 
tress which is everywhere overwhelming the most 
numerous and most industrious portion of our home 
population, loudly demands the immediate, strenuous, 
and united efforts of the true patriots of all parties, 
inasmuch as, unless some plan for instant as well as 
ultimate relief be proposed, the interests of all classes 
must be sacrificed, the safety of all the inhabitants of 
the State endangered, and the whole country hurried 
headlong into anarchy and revolution. It is, there- 
fore, resolved, *That in the opinion of the undersigned 
friends, now present, of the unemployed producers of 
wealth, the first and most pressing duty of the people 
is to demand immediately from the Government of the 
country such an advance of capital as would be suffi- 
cient to set those who are now starving to work, so as 
to enable them permanently to support themselves, 
by a due mixture of agricultural and manufacturing 
operations in their native land, the surplus of which 
newly-created wealth, after fully providing for the 
wants of the producers themselves, to be applied to 
the payment of interest, and the gradual repayment 
of the principal originally advanced, after which the 
whole wealth and property thus created to be the en- 

70 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

tire, sole, and undivided possession of its proper 
owners, after furnishing their fair proportion to the 
maintenance of the national government* " 

In connection with this document the state of the 
country at the period must be borne in mind. A 
rapid change for the worse in the condition of the 
people was going on. The charge for the support of 
the poor up to 1776 had not been more than one 
million and a half. Sixteen years previously (1750) 
it was only ;£'690,ooo. It is true there was a consider- 
able increase of the rates during the latter years of 
the century. The American War and the French 
Revolution had caused prices to advance without any 
advance in wages, and coupled with this the enclosure 
of the common lands had deprived the rural popula- 
tion of certain privileges, and deepened their poverty 
so as to cause a considerable increase of pressure on 
the rates. Manufactures had commenced to grow 
rapidly, and the agricultural labourers flocked into 
the towns ; but this did not raise the price of field 
labour, through a number of causes which need not 
be stated here, as it is the fact only we have to deal 

In the towns, which became rapidly overcrowded, 
things were no better. The power of production, in 
consequence of the substitution of mechanical for 
manual labour, reduced wages in such old handicrafts 
as had been interfered with ; and the difficulty of 
finding markets for the large quantities of goods pro- 
duced by mechanical power led to a want of employ- 
ment among the working people of Great Britain such 
as all men regarded as undesirable and dangerous. 
In 1834 the poor rates amounted to the enormous 

Manchester Congress. Extended Work. 71 

sum of ;f7,sii,2i9. We have nothing to do with the 
number of ingenious explanations given to account 
for this. The ;£"690,ooo of 1750 had grown to be 
above seven and a half millions, while the trade of the 
country had been rapidly increasing, and most natur- 
ally there was great suffering and deep discontent 
among the people. The landlords were neither re- 
spected nor trusted, as their conduct over the whole 
time had been unpatriotic and selfish. By the alchemy 
of statecraft, while manufacturers and landlords grew 
rich the people became poor — a spirit of successful 
self-interest was the basis of loyalty on the one side, 
while, on the other, a wide-spreading misery made the 
people hate the kind of government their task-masters 
were profiting by. Byron's description of the land- 
lords in the **Age of Bronze" can scarcely be regarded 
as over-coloured : 

'* See these inglorious Cincinnati swarm, 
Farmers of war, dictators of the farm ; 
Their ploughshare was the sword in hireling hands, 
Their fields manured by gore of other lands ; 
Safe in their barns, these Sabine tillers sent 
Their brethren out to battle — why ? For rent ; 
Year after year they voted cent, per cent. ; 
Blood, sweat, and tear-wrung millions — why ? For rent. 
They roar'd, they dined, they drank, they swore they meant 
To die for England — why then live ? — For rent. 
The Peace has made one general malcontent 
Of these high-market patriots. War was rent ! 
And will they not repay the treasures lent ? 
No ; down with everything, and up with rent ; 
Their good, ill, health, wealth, joy, or discontent, 
Being, end, aim, religion — rent, rent, rent ! " 

The people who had to eat the tax-branded loaf 

T2 LifCy Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

knew how just this denunciation was. In another 
way the same was true of the new manufacturing 
aristocracy. They had not got hold of the land, but 
they had got possession of the new implements of in- 
dustry, and these they were applying without reference 
to anything but the profit to be derived from them. 
The state of things that grew out of this in connection 
with men, women, and children has been vividly 
painted, not only in the songs of poets, but in the 
plainest prose of parliamentary inquiry. Ebenezer 
Elliotts " Preston Mills " is a sad picture of factory 
child-life, but it is no exaggeration, and its two con- 
cluding lines : 

** O, who would be or have a child ? 
A mother who would be ? " 

contain queries that must have perpetually haunted 
the minds of all who could understand or feel. The 
lines of Miss Barrett, too, were but an echo of the sor- 
rows of the people, and the sufferings of the young : 

** Do ye hear the children weeping, O, my brothers ! 
Ere the sorrow comes with years, 
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers. 

And that cannot stop their tears. 
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows, 

The young birds are chirping in the nest. 
The young fawns are playing with the shadows, 

The young flowers are blowing toward the west ; — 
But the young, young children ! O, my brothers, 

They are weeping bitterly ! 
They are weeping in the playtime of the others. 
In the country of the free." 

Manchester Congress, Extended Work. 73 

The air was loaded with the horrid factory griev- 
ances and with the wails of poverty, proceeding from 
workers whose lives had become almost unbearable 
by the uncertainty of employment, the insufficiency 
of wages, and the hopelessness of the struggle in which 
they were engaged. The evils protested against were 
not shams. Those who felt them in connection with 
their daily lives knew that they were real. The trade- 
unionists knew that a war was being waged against 
oppression in the factory and in the workshop ; and 
the working people generally, when not excited in 
relation to some deeply-seated prejudice, gave every- 
where a welcome to those who sought to carry it on. 

During the Congress of 1837, ^he trade-unionists or 
the United Mechanics, held a meeting in Manchester, 
and a deputation from that body attended the Congress, 
upon which occasion Mr. Owen addressed them. His 
advice was that their efforts should be mainly directed 
to self-employment ; but the impediment then was, as 
it is now, the difficulty of applying funds raised to 
resist aggression on the part of employers who were 
opposed to any scheme of self-employment, and the 
objection urged by Robert Owen to strikes was met 
by the assertion that though strikes were an evil, they 
were resorted to chiefly for the purpose of preventing 
a worse evil for which no other remedy was within 

But the two acts of the Congress that most in- 
fluenced the progress of the Socialist movement, were 
the removal of the New Moral Worlds the society's 
paper, to Manchester, and the appointment of a 
Central Board in Manchester to superintend and 
direct the movement from that town as a centre. 

74 Life^ Titnes^ atid Labours of Robert Owen, 


Alderman Heywood, then a young man in the publish- 
ing trade, undertook the printing and publishing of the 
paper. The appointment of the Central Board was a 
matter of much consequence. Everything depended 
on the energy and intelligence of its members. It 
was felt that if they did their work well as organisers 
and propagandists, a great advance might be made ; 
but, on the other hand, if they failed in this respect 
the movement might languish and die. Robert 
Owen was appointed general chairman, or, as he was 
designated, " Social Father," the idea being to con- 
stitute the society as much as possible on the model 
of the family, and to blend the authority and kindli- 
ness of the family tie in the officers of the society. 
Owen resided chiefly in London, while the members 
of the "foreign department," as it was called, were 
located there, and consisted of six members, whose 
duty it was to correspond with persons outside the 
kingdom, who, as believers and friends, took an in- 
terest in the proceedings of the society. There were 
also seven provincial directors who attended to the 
districts into which the country had been divided, so 
that action over the whole might proceed with 
harmony, and without troubling the directors at the 
centre, who had charge of the movement in every- 
thing connected with its finances, its principles, and 
its general management. There were six of these 
elected by the Congress, namely, John Booth, vice- 
president of the society ; John Green, William 
Baxter, Joseph Smith, and myself; George Alexander 
Fleming being at the same time appointed as general 
secretary and editor of the New Moral World, 
, The effect of the change in the management of the 

Manchester Congress, Extended Work, 75 

society, and the removal of the society's paper from 
London to Manchester, was soon manifest. The ex- 
position and advocacy of the leading ideas of the 
movement began to find illustration in a wider field. 
Such public questions, moreover, as had any bearing 
on the objects of the movement were made the subject 
of comment and discussion. Mr. Attwood's currency 
views, as explained by him in the House of Commons, 
were not approved by Robert Owen, who made the 
following reference to them in a letter addressed to 
the population of the United States of North 
America : — 

"I have just read Mr. Thomas Attwood's speech in 
the House of Commons on the currency question. 
Although I have great respect for this gentleman, yet 
I have no faith in his currency views. No private 
individuals or association of individuals ought to be 
permitted to make a profit by the currency. The 
currency ought to be the representative of real wealth, 
to be capable of expanding and contracting with the 
expansion and contraction of wealth, and to be issued 
solely by the nation and for its benefit." 

In the same letter the same subject is dealt with: — 
"Why has the cry of distress come from your shores 
— a cry of poverty among your wealthy merchants, 
and of traders in money — a cry that America never 
suffered so much since the struggle which gave her 
independence, and that nothing but ruin is anticipated 
to all her more wealthy classes ? Have you lost any 
of your land ? Have your industrious classes 
diminished ? Have you been deprived of your skill, 
of your industry, of your mechanical and chemical 
inventions or discoveries, or of any of your other 

76 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

powers of production? Have you experienced famine, 
or any devastation from fire or water to destroy your 
wealth, or has any party robbed you of any — the 
smallest portion of it ? No I None of these things have 
occurred ; but yet you cry, *We are in the deepest dis- 
tress for want of money, and if we cannot obtain it, ruin 
from all quarters stares us in the face/ You are really 
then in distress for want of money, and if asked what 
money is, you reply, 'It is the representative of 
wealth, and without it we are powerless, and all our 
means of producing wealth itself are consequently 
useless/ This is, indeed, a most strange position for 
a people who have obtained all the political freedom 
they desired to possess. It is an anomaly new in the 
history of man ; but it is one from which the most 
valuable knowledge may be derived/* 

After enumerating what the nation possessed as 
real wealth and the means to abundance, he goes on 
to say: — 

" Now, with these advantages, if you do not set the 
example of national and individual superiority, pro- 
sperity, and happiness, you must be the worst 
conducted people under Heaven, for no population 
has ever been placed within such domestic, or 
surrounded by such foreign favourable . circumstances 
as you may now secure to yourselves and children's 
children through all future ages. But you are now 
overwhelmed with distress ; yes, just such distress as 
a child would experience who supposed he could not 
be happy without he had the moon for a plaything, 
and therefore cried and was tormented because no 
one would bring it to him. You want more money 
or you will be ruined ! Why ? Because, say you. 

Manchester Congress. Extended Work, jy 

money is the representative of wealth, and the sub- 
stance IS of no use to us without we have the 
representative. This itself is abundantly childish, for 
while you have a vast superfluity of the substance, 
why, in the name of common-sense, cannot you devise 
the means of making a useful representative of it, 
co-extensive with the substance ? You vainly imagine 
you must starve without gold or silver money, or 
paper to represent gold or silver. Yet these are no 
more representatives of wealth than iron and steel, or 
paper to represent them would be. A real repre- 
sentative of wealth can be created alone by the wealth 
itself, and must possess the capacity of being 
increased as real wealth increases, of being diminished 
as real wealth diminishes, and of being unchangeable 
in its value or estimation throughout society. And 
this representative of wealth ought to be made and 
issued alone by each nation, through such officers 
under its immediate control as the nation may ap- 
point ; the nation itself being the responsible party 
for its value to individuals and to other nations." 

I have given these views on the money question not 
as correct (being, as they are, without any explanation 
of the process by which they were to be carried out), 
but because they are as nearly as possible in agree- 
ment with the view since put forward in American 
agitation on the money question. 

Mr. Wyse, in the House of Commons, was, at this 
time, pressing the subject of education, and the New 
Moral World supported him in a leading article 
which appeared on September 23, 1837. 

" The question must be answered in some way, and 
speedily. Great Britain must no longer put up with 

^8 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

the disgrace of being almost the only European 
nation in which the training of the rising generation 
is left to chance ; nor must we longer continue to 
suffer the manifold evils which result from such a 
wretched and irrational mode of procedure. Yet the 
Government will not move in the matter until the 
people compel them, and the people cannot move 
until they are made generally to perceive the desirable- 
ness and the beneficial effects of a change in our 
educational institutions. . . . All thinking men 
must perceive that this question lies at the root of all 
our schemes of reform, and that any other course is a 
lopping of the branches of the moral upas which 
desolates society, while the root remains untouched — 
a useless war with effects, instead of boldly attacking 
and removing causes. . . . But this state of things 
must not be allowed to continue. We must no longer 
be distinguished among the nations by our advanced 
and proud position in a knowledge of phyical science 
and the arts of producing wealth, and marked at the 
same time for the intellectual darkness and social 
degradation of our producers, and our profound 
practical ignorance of moral science and the arts of 
producing happiness. The elements of social pro- 
gression, now scattered in many directions, must be 
gathered together and brought to bear with a 
concentrated and continuous force upon the public 
mind, until all other questions succumb to this primary 
and radical object, and every British child be provided 
from infancy with a good, useful, impartial (unsectarian) 
education by the State." 

The article goes on to call for united action on this 
question, in the interest of the nation ; and then adds ; — 

Manchester Congress, Extended Work, 79 

" We consider we are in advance of the views held 
by many of the parties likely to be active in its 
support, it being a fixed opinion with us that any 
education, to be truly effectual, must combine good 
physical circumstances with mental instruction ; yet 
believing, at the same time, that every step we take 
towards the enlightenment of the masses would create 
fresh powers for future and beneficial reforms, that, 
as they advance in intelligence, they would see more 
clearly the true cure for our social grievances and 
anomalies, which they now fail to perceive, entirely in 
consequence of the ignorance forced on them by the 
present institutions of society; we say, seeing this, 
that we shall at all times be found in the ranks of 
those who advocate the extension and systematising 
of intellectual tuition, based on the principle of 
imparting a knowledge of facts, unconnected with 
party prejudices or sectarian dogmas ; and we believe 
that the numerous branch associations we are now 
forming throughout the country will be found valuable 
auxiliaries in the good work — composed, as they are, 
of the most reflective, intelligent, and moral portion 
of the productive classes." 

Another question was that of shortening the hours 
of labour. This was almost necessarily a part of such 
an agitation as the Socialists had entered on. They 
had made the general improvement of the condition 
of the masses their chief object, and long hours in the 
factories and workshops constituted a serious hindrance 
to such an undertaking. With arguments as to the 
danger to our foreign trade from shortened hours of 
labour they had no sympathy. They were convinced 
that such arguments were the pleadings of un- 

8o Life, Tinus, atid Labours of Robert Otven. 

scrupulous selfishness. Such public documents as 
threw light on the subject were as accessible to them 
as to the friends of the manufacturers, and they knew 
that these pleadings were not entitled to respect 
They were personally acquainted with the interior 
of the factories and workshops, and w^ere not to be 
misled by men who were employed to deceive the 

Two years previous to the time of which I am 
writing, Ur. Andrew Ure published his Philosophy of 
Manufactures^ which in many respects was a useful 
and interesting work ; but when he described the 
appearance of the people employed in the factories, 
especially the young women, he excited the disgust of 
those who lived in the daily presence of the actual 
things, and who knew how false the description was. 
He says : — 

" So much nonsense has been uttered about the 
deformity and diseases of factory children, that I may 
hardly be credited by some of my readers when I 
assert that I have never seen among a like number of 
the young women of the lower ranks in any country 
so many pleasing countenances and handsome 
figures. . . . Their light labour and erect posture 
in tending the looms, and the habit which many of 
them have in exercising their arms and shoulders, 
as if with dumb-bells, by resting their hands on the 
lay or shuttle bearer, as it oscillates alternately back- 
wards and forwards with the machinery, opens their 
chest, and gives them generally a graceful carriage. 
Many of them have adopted tasteful modes of wearing 
neat handkerchiefs on their heads, and have altogether 
not a little of the Grecian style of beauty. One of 

Manchester CotiQress, Extended Work. 8i 


them, whose cheeks had a fine rosy hue, being asked 
how long she had been at factory work, said * Nine 
years/ and blushed from bashfulness at being so 
slightly spoken to." 

We had no occasion to enter into argument with 
the people in the manufacturing districts on this 
subject, nor to lose time in citing medical testimony. 
Those we addressed knew the facts, and they knew 
that we were acquainted with them. And we all 
knew that these monstrous misrepresentations were 
matters of sale and purchase. This writer, however, 
goes further : — 

" Nothing,'' he says, " shows in a clearer point of view 
the credulity of mankind in general, and of the people 
of these islands in particular, than the ready faith 
which was given to the tales of cruelty exercised by 
proprietors of cotton mills toward young children. 
The system of calumny resembles that brought by the 
Pagans against the Primitive Christians, of enticing 
children into their meetings in order to murder and 
devour them." 

We felt how useless it would be to lose time in 
combating the falsehoods of self-interest among a 
people the greater part of whom could not be led 
astray on a subject in connection with which they had 
to spend their lives. 

Another important question was that of Free Trade. 
The Anti-corn-law League had not then come into 
existence ; and therefore it was not known whether or 
not the manufacturers, as a body, would lend their 
aid to repeal the Corn Laws. We had not any 
connection with them, nor any means of influencing 
them, but we knew that the working classes were very 


82 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

much interested in repeal. The New Moral World 
of August 5th, 1837, contained an article on 
Free Trade from which the following passage may 
be taken. " The only true principles," says the 
writer, Mr. G. A. Fleming, *'on which a for- 
eign commerce can rest with reciprocal benefit, is the 
free and unfettered exchange of their surplus commo- 
dities, that is, after every individual employed in their 
production has been well and amply supplied with 
them, the remaining portion, small or large, forms the 
legitimate and natural export wealth of the community. 
Thus, each country possesses the means of lodging, 
feeding, clothing, and educating its inhabitants, and 
the natural application of these means is to shelter, 
clothe, subsist, and educate all the people, before 
sending any of these necessaries abroad ; but if we 
neglect this, and export to other countries our neces- 
saries, and receive from them only curiosities or things 
less necessary in return, we violate the principle of 
beneficial foreign commerce, and establish just such a 
free trade as now exists between Great Britain and 
Ireland, by which the inhabitants of the latter country 
are condemned to unending toil to ship from their 
harbours cargoes of grain, and all other staple produc- 
tions of their country, whilst they themselves are cursed 
with an overflow of pauperism." 

Ten years later in Ireland the madness of what is 
here referred to was proved by the starving to death 
of a million of the people of that country, while the 
food of the nation was being exported to pay exorbi- 
tant rent to landlords who were living in luxury in 
London, Paris, and other great capitals of Europe, 


H Di6pute& (Uueation* 

Between the congress of May, 1837, and that which 
took place the same month of 1838, the whole of the 
manufacturing districts were in a state of activity, and 
lecturers were sent up and down in all directions to 
address the people. Every week the pages of the 
New Moral World contained ten or a dozen reports, 
from the surrounding towns, of lectures delivered and 
discussions held. 

Such a sudden awakening so aggressively mani- 
fested, had the appearance of a challenge to all recog- 
nized authorities. Ministers of all denominations 
were roused. Political economists denounced us as 
unscientific because we refused to accept their nostrums 
and because we protested against the wholesale man- 
ner in which they were doing the people to death on 

Owen was fiercely attacked from all sides. Public 
prejudice was excited to an extent which was both 
disagreeable and inconvenient. Halls that had been 
hired for public meetings, even when some of these 
meetings had been expensively advertised, were re- 
fused at the last moment. Owen was locked out of 
the Music Hall in Liverpool, notwithstanding a signed 
contract and a considerable outlay in calling the 

84 Life, Times y and Labours of Robert Owen, 

meeting. This was a thing of frequent occurrence, 
but an appeal to the law would have done no good. 
The misconceptions and prejudices that existed had 
penetrated everywhere, and it was felt that the best 
policy was to bear with the wrong, and to endeavour 
to secure or build commodious halls for our own use. 
The objects Robert Owen and his followers had in 
view were strictly legal, and the means adopted to 
carry them out was in the highest degree peaceable. 
Legal proceedings were therefore avoided, and what- 
ever the expedients resorted to, quietness and 
patience were, as a rule, relied on. In consequence of 
this policy, many very active opponents were in a 
little time brought over to the movement 

Looking back over the many years that have 
elapsed since 1837, ^^ ^^ right to acknowledge that the 
opposition met with, however irritating at the mom- 
ent, was seldom vindictive or cruel. And although 
the questions we had undertaken to deal with, excited 
suspicion and alarm, the quiet manner in which we 
took the opposition, generally led to toleration of our 
proceedings, which, in the end; came to be regarded 
as legitimate, and as honestly entered on in the inter- 
est of the public. Religious people had come to be- 
lieve that all religions were rejected and opposed 
by the Socialists, and therefore, their hostility was not 
to be wondered at. It is a curious fact, however, 
that a considerable party in the country, who openly 
professed unbelief and attacked religion in a sense of 
public duty, also opposed us v^ry strongly. 

Richard Carlile, who had suffered years of imprison- 
ment for his unbelief, regarded us as his most danger- 
ous enemies, though he had never met with opposition 

A Disputed Question. S5 

from us. Carlile was a quiet man, of gentlemanly de- 
meanour, but combative and determined. The follow- 
ing letter which he addressed to the editor of the 
New Moral World^o^s the spirit in which he opposed 
us : — 

" Sir, — Having read over the professed discussion 
at Huddersfield about the principles of Mr. Owen, be- 
tween the Rev. Mr. Dalton and Mr. Lloyd Jones, I 
was disappointed at not finding the subject really 
touched by Mr. Dalton. In connection with my in- 
tention to visit every town in Lancashire and the 
West Riding of Yorkshire in the course of the present 
year, to oppose wherever I may find an association 
under the name of Mr Owen's principles, I offer to 
meet Mr. Fleming at Huddersfield, on the same terms 
as Mr. Dalton met Mr. Jones, if arrangements can be 
made. I care not how early the day or days, so as 
they be not Sunday or Monday. 

" I do not make choice of Mr. Fleming, but use his 
name because he has put it forward ; and as I wish 
to avoid all impertinence, I hope I may be excused 
in saying that I would rather meet Mr. Owen himself 
anywhere — in Manchester, Liverpool, or where best. 
I hereby offer to meet one or all of the associated 
body of men calling themselves socialists — a silly and 
unmeaning title, by-the-by — having the feeling, the 
conviction, and the will to show that on their proposed 
ground they can make no beneficial change in the 
present state of society, and that as to their building 
scheme they are not acting on one sound or rational 
principle. — I am, &c, RICHARD Carlile. 

"Oldham, Jan, 31, 1838.'' 

86 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

It fell to the lot of the writer to undertake such 
discussions as were entered on with Richard Carlile. 
One was held in Manchester, one in Bradford, and one 
or two elsewhere. Carlile was a man of cool temper, 
and in discussion behaved with candour and fairness. 
He had, as a publisher, issued a large amount of anti- 
Christian literature, chiefly of an argumentative and 
philosophic character, which had brought him under 
the notice of the Attorney-General. He was several 
years in prison, much to the disgrace of the Govern- 
ment of the day, and it, perhaps, was not pleasant, 
when he came out, to find a new party in possession 
of the field, with a new set of ideas, and a new policy 
which attached no importance to mere negative ideas. 
It was the business of the Socialists to teach the 
people what to believe, instead of what not to believe. 
It was a conviction with them that when truth took 
possession of the public mind error would die out of 

Mr. Carlile had been so long in active conflict with 
what he believed to be mischievous error, that he 
could not agree with our mode of action, and, there- 
fore, we had his opposition. The habit of his mind 
necessarily rendered him feeble in discussing questions 
nearly altogether positive and practical. It was 
necessary to be acquainted with the condition of edu- 
cation in the country, and to have some conception 
of plans for its improvement. It was necessary, also, 
to know the effect of the manufacturing system on 
the condition of the people, and to entertain and un- 
derstand measures for altering it. Mr. Carlile's mind 
had been employed on quite a different class of sub- 
jects, [and in the discussion of these the Socialists 


A Disputed Question, Sy 

found little to interest them. He was really a clever 
man, but he seemed more at home in exposition than 
ia discussion, and to feel that the principles and facts 
to be dealt with required more examination and study 
than he had been able to give them. I judge this to 
be the conclusion he had arrived at, as his antagonism 
was in a short time abandoned, although some of his 
less able followers continued long after to offer an 
active though not a very effective opposition. 

The fact of not adopting extreme anti-Christian 
views was brought as a charge against Owen by anti- 
religious zealots. They thought they had hit on the 
right way of establishing truth, and not to accept their 
method and their views was considered as cowardice. 
But from the beginning the Socialists condemned and 
opposed such a policy, and held that criticism of false 
ideas on general subjects is an endless task ; that 
when such criticism is applied to the dogmas of re- 
ligious sects, it draws after it prejudices and hatreds 
that had much better be avoided, if for no other 
reasons than that they constitute the most effectual 
hindrances to progress. 

It has, on the other hand, been insisted upon that 
thq socialism of Robert Owen was actively and in- 
tentionally hostile to the Christian faith. The charge 
that it was a deliberate and combined attack on 
religion was used as a justification of the conduct of 
those who so unscrupulously misrepresented and 
denounced the movement as anti-religious and 
anarchical. Facts have already been adduced to 
repel this accusation. The great aim of the leaders of 
the movement was to suppress all attacks on religious 
opinions of whatever kind, and for this purpose every 

88 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

possible effort was made to hold enthusiasts and 
bigots in check. 

The society insisted on the most complete toleration 
of each other by the members, whether they were 
fervid believers or extreme unbelievers ; but as the 
members were drawn indiscriminately from the 
public, a kindly toleration all round was a most 
difficult thing to enforce : as men brought with 
them their old habits of thinking and speaking, and 
frequently gave pain to each other without intending 
it A discipline of charity and kindness had been 
introduced, which in time produced excellent fruit, 
but a society daily drawing ne\y members into its 
ranks was always more or less subject to have its 
peace disturbed by bigotries difficult to control. 
Besides this, certain of the members and others in 
their criticisms of religion and religious opponents, 
had, though speaking on their own authority 
simply, led to the belief that the movement was 
hostile to religion, when, in fact, its opposi- 
tion was solely directed against an intolerant con- 
demnation of freedom of thought. Large numbers of 
people who were sincere believers were eager to join 
the movement, but they were unwilling to do so 
without guarding, so far as they could, against being 
mistaken on a point so important. The mode of 
affiliating branches was to receive an application for 
a charter, and if there were no reason why it should 
not be granted, a framed and engraved document 
Was issued to be hung up in the branch institution, 
and by this the branch was known to have accepted 
the laws and principles of the society. 

An application of this sort was made from Edin- 

A Disputed Question. 89 

burgh, accompanied by a communication which fully 
raised the question of religious policy, and as the 
document and the replies to it from the officers of the 
society are unreserved and explicit, the simple repro- 
duction of such parts as deal directly with the re- 
ligious aspects of the subject will explain the position 
taken up by the Socialist movement When this 
application was made to the Central Board, with a 
request that it might be published in the society's 
paper, the editor at once complied, prefacing it with 
these words : — 

" The following application for a charter has been 
forwarded from our friends in Edinburgh with a 
request for its insertion in our pages. We cheerfully 
give it a place, and trust that the manly independence 
of its sentiments is universal among the social body. 
The world has been ruined by man and name wor- 
ship, and its happiness wrecked upon the rocks of 
verbal disputation. The projectors of a new state of 
society must take care to avoid both errors." 

In this case, what applied to Edinburgh applied to 
the whole society in all its branches, and, as the 
documents now under consideration were published 
for the jSerusal of the whole society at the time, the 
explanations asked for and given, should leave no 
doubt in the mind of any candid person in regard to 
the policy pursued by the society. 

If there was anything true of Robert Owen as a 
public man, it was that he never sailed under false 
colours at any period of his life. It never troubled 
him that people differed from his views, or con- 
demned him for entertaining them. He knew that 
to be mistaken and misrepresented was inevitable 


go Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

when the ideas promulgated were new, or difficult to 
understand, or if they were opposed to the interests 
or prejudices of any large section of the public. With 
this sort of impediment, he had to deal in the best 
way he could. But neither he, nor those belonging to 
the society at the head of which he stood,studied how to 
lay before the public the principles in which they 
believed, for the purpose of entrapping proselytes 
under false pretences. They stated their objects with 
care, and what these were declared to be at the 
beginning, they remained to the end, while their 
advocacy from first to last was open and consistent. 

It has been said that when attacked by the Bishop 
of Exeter and others, the policy of the Socialists was 
changed out of fear for the consequences. There is 
not a single fact by which such a charge can be 
justified. The principal accusation brought against 
them is that they made it part of their business to 
attack religion, whereas, in fact, they made it a 
special duty to discountenance attacks on religion. 
What the leaders of the society desired was the most 
unreserved expression of thought on matters of 
public interest, especially those connected with their 
own proceedings, provided always that no offence 
was unnecessarily given. 

It could not be expected that liberty of speech 
would not be sometimes abused by those who in 
advocating their opinions, were betrayed into a want 
of consideration for the opinions of others ; but the 
following correspondence to which allusion has just 
been made, will, I think, show that the general spirit 
of the association was not antagonistic to religious 

A Disputed Question* 91 

" We, the undersigned inhabitants of Edinburgh, in 
the county of Midlothian, having been made ac- 
quainted with the objects, principles, and laws of the 
* Universal Community Society of Rational Re- 
ligionists,* and being desirous of promoting the 
objects of that society, and willing to abide by the 
laws which are now promulgated, or which may be 
from time to time enacted, in accordance with the 
constitution of the society, do hereby request that a 
charter may be granted to us to open a branch of the 
society in Edinburgh." 

To prevent any mistake, however, as to what the 
Edinburgh applicants meant by this step, the follow- 
ing was added : — 

" We regard the objects for which we seek to be 
associated with you as strictly of a moral and econ- 
omical, and not at all of a theological character, as 
involving no collision with the different religions of 
mankind, except in so far as these religions are 
opposed to the fundamental facts of our system. . . In 
other words, by assuming the name of Rational 
Religionists, we do not intend to found or to form a 
religious sect, but only to declare that we consider 
the public or professed religion of this society, in so 
far as it lays claim to any peculiarity, to consist in 
the pursuit of knowledge, and in the love and 
practice of goodness in all its forms. But we do not 
mean to say that other religions may not or do not 
possess these characteristics, whose excellence we 
acknowledge in whatever sex, class, sect, party, 
country, or colour they may be found." 

One of the paragraphs of the Edinburgh letter had 
reference to the use of the pronoun " It " as applied 

92 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Ozven, 

to the Deity, but this was rather a matter of taste and 
form. Another contained the following declara- 

" Our adhesion to the constitution and laws of the 
society shall not be held to infer the slightest re- 
linquishment on our part of the great principle of 
Protestantism — the right of free inquiry and of private 
judgment in matters of religion — a right which is 
destructive of the domination of all Churches or 
bodies of men over individual opinions, or which may 
rather be said to constitute every man, in his own 
proper person, a separate and independent church, 
amenable to no other jurisdiction than the court of 
his own conscience, and from which right flows the 
corresponding duty of respecting the conscientious 
convictions of our neighbour." 

These extracts bear upon two or three points of 
some consequence ; one, that the men who joined the 
movement were not those who entered lightly and 
thoughtlessly on the labour the society imposed, 
without understanding the relative rights of the 
society, and the individuals who made up its 
membership ; another, that the principles and 
policy of the society were clearly defined, and the 
spirit in which the work was carried oil distinctly 
stated and understood — also that arbitrary dictation 
in matters of opinion on the part of the leaders, and 
submission on the part of the members, was neither 
expected or permitted. 

In its reply the Central Board declares the objects 
of the society to be " moral and economical, not of a 
theological character, and involving no collision with 
the different religions of mankind." It considers the 

A Disputed Question, 93 

sentiments of the applicants " perfectly in accordance 
with the objects and principles of the society." 

To an objection on the part of the Edinburgh men to 
be bound by any of the writings of Robert Owen, ex- 
cept such as the constitution of the society accepted, it 
replies : " The Board consider that the subscribing to 
the principles and laws of the society does not in any 
way involve assent to all the writings of Robert Owen, 
and they further conceive that the great Protestant 
principle — the right of free inquiry and private judg- 
ment in all matters of religion — is a right which is 
especially set forth in articles 19 and 21 of the laws 
as pertaining to all members of the society, and they 
consider it to be a most sacred privilege." 

"Many of the applicants," the Edinburgh letter 
said, " are Christians from sincere conviction. They 
see in the principles of the society nothing but an 
attempt to reduce to practice the precepts of the re- 
ligion of Jesus Christ, which, unfortunately for the 
world, have hitherto existed in theory only. The 
philosophy of the system, even to its minutest details, 
they find to be not only in harmony with, but to 
spring directly from, the principles of that religion, 
interpreted by enlightened reason ; and they cannot 
therefore but regret the false position, as it seems to 
them, into which Socialism has been thrown, of appar- 
ent antagonism to a religion whose corruptions only 
it opposes. Mr. Owen has, like every other human 
being, his own peculiar notions in regard to religion, 
and expresses these freely in his works ; but by join- 
ing the society we wish it to be. distinctly understood 
that we embrace neither Mr. Owen's religious opinions, 
nor those of any other man or body of men ; but 

94 L,if^y Tiines^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

assert our own individual right to form an indepen- 
dent judgment on all such matters." 

The following words express very distinctly the 
views of Mr. Owen on the religious part of the sub- 
ject, and may be taken as indicating the position 
occupied by the Socialists : 

"The Board most readily express their complete 
concurrence in your opinion, that Socialism is in har- 
mony with the Christian religion, interpreted by 
enlightened reason, and they would add that they 
consider it to be the only means by which that religion, 
so interpreted, can ever be established in universal 
practice over the earth. . . . The Central Board most 
earnestly desire that the society may be an effectual 
means by which all may be brought to hear the voice 
of truth, that disunion of feeling may be destroyed, 
and that all mankind may become one fold under one 

It may be mentioned that during the whole agita- 
tion the Edinburgh branch was one of the most active 
and loyal. 

When the missionaries and teachers were appointed 
in 1838, Robert Owen, as president of the society, 
published an address to them, containing instruction 
and advice. " If," he said, " you should be challenged 
to hold discussions on religious mysteries or dogmas, 
you will kindly and respectfully decline by stating 
that the authority by which you are appointed, and 
under which you act, will not permit you to occupy 
your time in discussions which arouse angry, irrational 
feelings, tending to separate man from man." 

The policy indicated was deliberately adopted, and it 
will be seen how little it sanctioned attacks on religion. 



Ube J5l8bop of leieter* popular Hoitations* 

From what has been stated, the objects of the Socia- 
lists and the methods they adopted for the purpose of 
carrying them out, will be understood. Education of 
the people ; village communities, where production 
and distribution were to be carried on equitably, were 
the primary objects ; but, in connection with these, 
all Liberal questions were to be taken up and advo- 
cated. Free trade, a free press, short time in factories 
and workshops, free discussion, and all else that 
directly, or indirectly, had a tendency to improve the 
condition of the masses. 

In addition to the missionaries appointed, numbers 
of young men became active for the furtherance of 
the work in hand. These proceedings attracted too 
much attention to remain unnoticed, and hence zeal- 
ous advocates for the preservation of things as they 
were, took the field in opposition. Chief among these 
was a man named Brindley, whose zeal was of that 
violent kind which defeats its own object, and by ex- 
aggeration assists refutation. The most formidable 
of all the opponents of the socialist movement, how- 
ever, was Henry, Bishop of Exeter. It has been said 
that he fought his way to his bishopric by his energy 
and unscrupulousness as a writer of pamphlets. He 

g6 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

was the busy, and not over-scrupulous person satirised 
by Moore as " The Rev. Pamphleteer " : 

" All prais'd the skilful jockey ship, 
Loud rang the Tory cheer. 
While away, away, with spur and whip. 
Went the Reverend Pamphleteer. 

** The hack he rode how could it err ? 
'Twas the same that took last year, 
That wonderful jump to Exeter 
With the Reverend Pamphleteer. 

• • • • • 

** * Stop, stop,' said Truth, but vain her cry 
Left far away in the rear ; 
She heard but the usual * gay good-bye ' 
From her faithless Pamphleteer." 

The bishop, whatever his zeal, possessed no real 
power to impede the socialist movement. He could 
only excite anger against it, in men of the same spirit 
with himself, from the pulpit ; and lamentations and 
exclamations of horror in the House of Lords, where 
his denunciations were delivered. It was too late to 
frame laws against new heresies, and as the few years 
during which the agitation had been carried on had 
to some extent opened the eyes of the people, his mis- 
statements and exaggerations were seen through by 
thinking men, and by those who possessed influence 
among the masses of the people. There was in reality 
no apprehension on the part of the Socialists as to 
the capability of the bishop to injure them, and, there- 
fore, from the platform and in the columns of the 
New Moral World, he was treated as an angry man 
who had lost his temper, and with it a respect for 

Popular Agitations, 97 

truth. The first proceeding of the bishop was to pre- 
sent a petition, on the 24th of January, 1840, to the 
House of Lords, signed by 4,000 of the clergy, bankers, 
merchants, manufacturers, and other inhabitants of 
Birmingham, setting forth the evils of socialism, and 
praying that means might be taken to put a stop to its 
progress. The speech accompanying the petition was 
long and laboured, and crowded with mis-statements ; 
and it is certain the information on which he spoke was 
gathered with no greater scrupulousness than usually 
marks such proceedings. 

The bishop seems to have employed certain people 
to attend the social halls, and report to him the hor- 
rible things said, and, certainly as given by his lord- 
ship to the House of Peers, they were bad enough. 
He also related stories of dreadful deaths of unbe- 
lievers, and old tales that had served for a long time 
to frighten people into the ordinary orthodoxies of 
the world. Lord Brougham, with courage equal to 
his ability, defended Mr. Owen's character, first on 
the testimony of Mr. Wilberforce, and next on his 
own personal knowledge of Owen. He assured the 
House that he had never before heard of the outrage- 
ous charges brought against the Socialists by the 
bishop. The Marquis of Normanby also made a long 
speech, in which he threw doubt on the correctness of 
the bishop's statements, and twitted him with sup- 
porting his charges by extracts from papers printed a 
considerable time before the Government took office. 
Lord Melbourne took some trouble to defend himself 
for having presented Mr. Owen at Court, with an 
address signed by a large number of people, and prc^ 
tested against being held responsible for Socialistic 


98 Life^ TivteSy and Labours of Robert Owen. 

opinions, because he had performed a mere formal 
act. The Duke of Wellington delivered himself in- 
dignantly, especially in regard to the presentation to 
the Queen. The Earl of Galloway was more indig- 
nant still at the atrocity of such an act On the same 
night the Socialists petitioned the House for inquiry, 
but this their lordships did not want, being satisfied 
w th the matter in the form in which the bishop had 
given it to them. It is a curious fact that during the 
delivery of all this indignation it was never mentioned 
that Robert Owen was a friend of Her Majesty's 
father; and that, of all those who assisted in the pro- 
motion of his views, there was no one more zealous 
or constant than the Duke of Kent. Possibly the 
noble speakers did not remember that while they were 
labouring to insult and degrade Robert Owen, their 
effort included the father of the Sovereign for whom 
they were expressing such unbounded reverence. 

The society met the bishop in the following way. 
They extracted from his speech every accusation it 
contained, and appended to each a distinct refutation. 
Most of the charges made have already been dealt 
with, and need not be again referred to, except in a 
few instances. One of the points most strongly urged 
in the House of Lords by the bishop, was the danger 
and wickedness of the doctrine of non-responsibility. 
It is true that the Socialists insisted that to rely for 
the prevention of crime solely on the punishment it 
entailed, was a mistake ; that it was unreasonable to 
punish miserable creatures for the commission of 
crimes which, in ninety-nine out of a hundred cases, 
^ere the result of the state in which they were suffered 
to grow up. It was held to be an immoral act on 

Popular Agitations, 99 

the part of society to leave the young to ignorance 
and misery, and then punish them for doing those 
things which their ignorance and frequently the cruel 
necessities of their lives led them to do. But the idea of 
non-responsibility was never urged as capable of being 
acted on in the existing state of society, but rather as 
an argument to stimulate public action in the direction 
of national education, and the establishment of a con- 
dition of things in which the natural and legitimate 
wants of all should be considered. 

It was a condemnation of an unwise reliance on 
penalties, and not a doctrine the promulgation 
of which was likely to lead to the commission of 
crime by insisting on its impunity. In fact, the 
charges of the Bishop of Exeter were in the very 
worst spirit of unjust accusation, and the part played 
by the House of Lords in listening to them with ap- 
proval was not calculated to elevate its character in 
the estimation of sensible and fair-minded people. 

The bishop declared that " he had always deemed 
Mr. Owen not to be a bloody-minded man. Up to 
this period he had considered him a visionary ; but he 
was now of opinion, from a part of the controversy 
that Mr. Owen had had with Mr. Roebuck, that he 
must look upon him in a different light. In that 
passage there was an appearance of a tendency to 
bloodshed.'* Owen replied to this uncharitable im- 
putation by describing the many evils of society, and 
stating his reasons for seeking to make such 
improvements as he thought conducive to the welfare 
of the community. The sanguine belief entertained 
by Owen, led him to conclude that the new ideas he 
was engaged in teaching, and the new practices he 


and criimc-^s -rincfi !ie c:n«ierzr:cti. Ke savs 
:n. tne •*• ^-Liniisci.' by x^cli re r^cel. •"The new 
nii'.r^I arc r^re fj^c^rn. ctj — «:c cdier"<ri5e interfere 

'^•:*Ji r?_e C'd ' :c rxl ire zr^rare sv-ftern. ct the world 

t?.ar: sv cz^Tirr b:3 zrxczal arc ^eacesire destmctioa 
arri entire amfliilazicn : anc this ss nc^ ericent by 
the cor^t^rr:at:c n cf all "arrio have beai tan^t to think 
that th^ev have Sijcne peciir-.^.rv interest in maintaining 
tr.iT old wsm-out irra^'otial s^-stefn."' It is clear that 
while the bi-hoo bel:e;ed that he meditated abolish- 
ing c^erv old law and instftxitfon bv bloodshed, Onen 
himself was ftil'y convinced that the bishop and his 
Church establLrhment, and many other things that he 
held to be irrational, would by mere pressure of a 
reformed public opinion pass into disuse. The 
bishop's error, it need scarcely be said, carried him 
far away from truth and Christian calmness of 

There is given in Owen's manifesto, a brief account 
of the labours of his Hfe, touching by its simph'city of 
statement, and the evidence it bears to his activity and 
devotion to the welfare of others. The bishop was 
not bound to know what Owen had done, or what 
manner of man he really was ; but before making 
Huch abominable charges, it is not unreasonable to 
think that he ought to have entered on some inquiry 
an to their truth. Robert Owen had been known to 
the worid for his humane exertions for above thirty 
ycarH, and his reputation was without stain. His 
wor«t enemies admitted the purity of his motives, and 
when the worst imputations were made, and public 
prosecution solicited, some little investigation should 

Popular Agitations, 10 1 

have been reg^arded as a decent if not a necessary 

Robert Owen bore the abuse and threaten ings of 
the bishop without any kind of personal disquiet. To 
the threat of a legal crusade, he replied, " I am the 
discoverer, founder, and open promulgator of this 
system, and of all the error, immorality, and blas- 
phemy which it contains (if a particle of either can be 
found in it). I alone am the author, and, therefore, I 
alone ought to be, if anyone shall be, prosecuted and 
punished for the wickedness that may be extracted 
from it." This manifesto goes on to say : — 

" From the beginning of my career, when I had no 
one to support me, I had, for the cause of truth, to 
place myself in direct and open opposition to all the 
most deeply-rooted prejudices of the past ages. I 
then anticipated and made up my mind to incur fines, 
imprisonment, and death ; and what are these to an 
individual when his mind and feelings are deeply 
imbued with a desire permanently to benefit the 
human race? But instead of fines, imprisonment, or 
death, I have been a favourite of the world, have lived 
a quiet, peaceful, and unostentatious life, happy in 
myself, and in my family ; which in New Lanark, in 
Scotland, and in New Harmony, in America, has been 
one of the most happy families on either side of the 
Atlantic. It is true, I have always expended to the 
last shilling my surplus wealth in promoting this 
great and good cause, for funds have always been much 
required to hasten its progress as I desired. But the 
right rev. prelate is greatly deceived when he says, as 
he is reported to have said, that I had squandered my 
wealth in profligacy and luxury. I have never ex- 

102 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

pended a pound in either. All my habits are habits 
of temperance in all things ; and I challenge the right 
rev. prelate, and all his abettors, to prove the contrary, 
and I will give him and them the means of following 
me through every stage and month of my life. Having 
made this statement, I mean not to trouble myself 
with what any parties may say, in or out of the 
Houses of Parliament. My life is the true answer to 
any falsehood that may be stated." 

From 1830 to close upon 1850, the working men 
in England and Scotland were active in agitating for 
measures which they believed to be of importance to 
their class. At the commencement of this period, 
Tory influence, in connection with the Government of 
the country, was in the ascendant. It had received a 
serious blow by the forced abolition of the penal laws 
in 1829, and it was again threatened by the introduc- 
tion of a Reform Bill that was declared to be 
revolutionary ; but the old spirit of exclusion and 
monopoly, in the holders of office, was still rampant. 
The people, however, had begun to feel that they 
possessed power which might be turned to good 
account when they could come to an understanding 
with each other as to how it could be best used. Im- 
pressed with the conviction that agitation was 
necessary before anything desirable could be obtained, 
they went into combination with the middle classes 
for the purpose of forcing on Parliament the reform 
measure of 1832. 

The training acquired in connection with the 
agitation necessary to carry this measure, was of great 
value to them in their battle for a cheap press ; which 
was followed by the Chartist agitation. There was, 

Popular Agitations, I03 

in addition to these, the short time agitation, all being 
intensified by the distress which existed among the 
people and which was made doubly unbearable by 
the enactment of the new poor law, and its adminis- 
tration. There were disturbances in the manufactur- 
ing districts, and plug-drawing ; while in the 
agricultural districts there were swing riots and 
nightly fires, lit by the match of the incendiary, 
blazing in all directions. Robert Owen and his 
followers had no influence in the agricultural districts, 
and, therefore, could do nothing to check such a spirit ; 
but in the big towns of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and 
other counties, where manufacturing operations were 
carried on, they were active, while doing all in their 
power to help forward the measures agitated for by the 
people, in preventing resort to any kind of violence 
or lawlessness. This was, in the circumstances then 
existing, a difficult work. Robert Owen believed that 
if the people committed themselves so far as to come 
into collision with the troops, the worst consequences 
would follow. He had many times stated, in his ad- 
dresses, that the working men should in every way 
short of a sacrifice of principle, labour to get the 
middle classes on their side. He was convinced that 
the knowledge of business they possessed was 
necessary for working out effectively the plans he had 
promulgated for improving the condition of society, 
and he deprecated anything calculated to widen the 
breach already existing between them and the masses 
of the people. He felt very strongly that any kind of 
extensive outbreak of violence would lead to much 
bloodshed and destruction of property. The troops 
which were spread throughout the midland and 

104 -^(/^> Times y and Labours of Robert Oweft, 

northern counties, were under the command of Sir 
Charles James Napier. There can be no doubt that 
they would have put down any popular rising that 
might have taken place, but nobody felt more keenly 
than Napier himself how difficult the task would be, if, 
through discontent in the large towns, simultaneous 
risings and widely-diffused attacks on life or property 
should take place^ He was a man full of resource, 
ability, and courage, yet he repeatedly protested 
against the scattering of the force under his command 
for the protection of outlying places, where manu- 
facturers and other persons were alarmed for their 
safety ; and he complained of the disinclination of 
such persons to do anything, either by enrolling them- 
selves as volunteers orproviding proper accommodation 
for detachments of the soldiery sent for their protec- 
tion. He was also apprehensive that billeting the 
soldiers in the public-houses, where they would al- 
most necessarily become friendly with the discontented 
people, endangered their loyalty, and that even should 
their loyalty not suffer, they would be at the mercy of 
those who, in case of a raising, would defeat, and, it 
might be, destroy them piecemeal. 

In the journal kept by Sir Charles at this time, we 
find the following entries : 

"Manchester, May 8, 1839. — All quiet for the 
moment, but all information speaks of a rising on 
Whit Monday. May 9. — I have over and over again 
stated the danger of having billets. Why will they 
not let me hire barracks? The country cannot be 
protected by detachments. Let the gentlemen and 
yeomanry defend themselves ; local defence should 
meet local attacks ; I cannot, I will not give troops. 

Popular Agitations, I05 

Yet I have not called in any detachment, because if 
that were now done the people would rise, and the 
blame be cast on me ; moreover, with so little know- 
ledge of this district it would be too decided a step — 
all that can be done is to put some infantry in build- 
ings where the cavalry are in billets. I have, by 
letter, endeavoured to animate magistrates and 
colonels of yeomanry, but all were apathetic, all want- 
ing soldiers, and doing nothing for themselves." ^ 

Writing on May the 23rd, of the defence of Man- 
chester, he says : 

"All the north-east of Manchester is riotous, the 
south quiet. Which of the seven positions indicated 
should be occupied would depend on the place where 
the mob assembled ; but in each my left is protected 
by the river, my right by the canal, and they are 
shorter than they look, as only the openings of streets 
need be guarded, and a few windows occupied. The 
bridges could be easily barricaded and defended by 
the armed citizens, and from any one position men 
could be detached against the rioters if needed, or an 
advance made with my whole force." 

There follows this account of the preparations made 
for suppressing Chartism, a proclamation, unsigned, 
calling on the Chartists to see that their arms were 
ready and that their ammunition was sufficient, as in 
a day or two, at a moment's notice, they were to be 
called upon to take the field. " Now or never," con- 
cludes this sanguinary document, " is the time. Be 
sure you do not' neglect your arms, and when you 
strike, do not let it be with sticks or stones, but let 
the blood of all you suspect moisten the soil of your 

^ Charles Napier's Life, vol. ii., p. 26. 

io6 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

native land, that you may for ever destroy even the 
remembrance of your poverty and shame." Sir 
Charles was very anxious to call out the yeomanry, 
but got no encouragement from the Government, or, 
with but few exceptions, from the gentlemen of the 
district. Writing to Mr. Phillips, he says : 

" It is an operation of great expense ; but when I 
consider the extent of the present bad spirit, and of 
the armings, I cannot but hold the opinion that it is 
absolutely necessary to concentrate the greatest, pos- 
sible force to overcome the people of this district. 
The primary object is to save the country from de- 
vastation, expense must therefore be a secondary 
consideration. The Chartists affirm that they have 
250,000 men armed in Lancashire alone. This is 
probably a lie, but if they can assemble 50,000 the 
most dreadful ravages would be committed by the 
march of such a body ; hence any inconvenience it 
may cause to gentlemen in the yeomanry, to put 
them on permanent duty will be trivial to what they 
would sufifer if the Chartists get under arms." ^ 
- I give these extracts to show the state of the manu- 
facturing districts, the spirit of the people, and the 
apprehensions of the authorities. During this time 
the leading men in the Socialist movement were not 
idle. They felt how deplorable a rising of the people 
would be, not only in its consequences to the people 
themselves, but in the efifect it was almost certain to 
have on the future propagation of liberal opinion. 
They knew better than the authorities did what was 
going forward. The only mode the latter possessed 
of obtaining information was by their spies, and the 

^ Vol. ii., p. 31. 

Popular Agitations, 107 

information these communicated seems to have been 
full of invention and exaggeration. The Socialists 
were in the habit of visiting the various neighbour- 
hoods where disafifection was most widely spread and 
most active. The people came to them to consult 
them and ask advice. Fathers and mothers, whose 
sons had become participators in the preparations for 
the intended struggle, came to solicit their aid in 
holding them back; while many of the men them- 
selves, who believed in the propriety and necessity of 
what they were doing, also consulted them. The 
members of the society considered it a duty to go 
among the Chartists to beg of them not to risk the 
cause of progress by an outbreak, which could only 
end in failure and needless bloodshed. 

Having done all they could privately, they met in 
council to discuss the propriety of taking some public 
step for the purpose of expressing strong disapproval 
of physical force as a means of pushing forward re- 
form. It was decided to call a large public meeting, 
and instead of several resolutions and a number of 
speakers, to have but one speaker and one resolution, 
the seconder to confine himself simply to formally 
seconding the resolution. I was the person appointed 
to deliver the address, and I felt that a very important 
and delicate task had been imposed on me. The 
announcement caused a lively commotion among the 
Chartists of Manchester and the surrounding towns, 
and when the time for the meeting arrived, the Car- 
penters' Hall in Manchester, which held about 2,000 
people, was densely packed, the audience for the most 
part standing, while outside there was a crowd of 
people amounting to between four and five thousand. 


f o8 Life^ Times y and Labours of Robert Owen. 

My friends were apprehensive that an attack would 
be made on me, and massed themselves between me 
and the body of the meeting. For myself I can say 
that I never for a moment considered myself in danger. 
I had at that time much experience in addressing 
public meetings, and always found that the people 
were disposed to listen patiently and act peaceably 
when addressed in a spirit of sympathetic earnestness. 
I had carefully arranged what I had to say, not in 
words, but in regard to the general order of my ideas, 
leaving to the inspiration of the moment the form in 
which I should utter them. I referred to the wrongs 
of which the people complained ; to the existence of 
popular ignorance, together with ample means for a 
system of national education ; to the long hours of 
labour in the factories, mines, and workshops of the 
country ; to the denial of political power, which 
rendered the people impotent to peaceably remove 
the evils they were called upon to endure ; to the 
taxation of the newspaper press, which constituted a 
bar to the acquisition by them of political knowledge. 
When I had dwelt briefly on their grievances and ad- 
mitted the evils resulting from the abuses against which 
they protested, I found myself on the best possible 
terms with my audience. I then told them that the 
only difference between them and the Socialists was 
as to the best means of putting right what was wrong. 
Having stated this, I referred to their chance of suc- 
cess in opposition to a drilled and disciplined army 
skilfully led, and backed by every influence that the 
prejudices or fears of the middle and upper classes 
could bring to bear in such a conflict. I contrasted 
this with the lack on the part of the people of every- 

Popular Agitations. 109 

thing necessary to ensure success in such a struggle. 
No arms, no discipline, no military leaders, no money, 
no commissariat ; nothing, in fact, but their cause, 
their poverty, and their angry impatience, which, if 
for a short time successful, would lead to plunder and 
destruction of property, and, in the end, to such dis- 
order as would make it the business of every man 
who had anything to lose to assist in hunting them 

I then told them that up to that point my argument 
dealt chiefly with the practicability, not with the 
propriety or the justice, of attempting to rectify the 
evils of society by violence. As I went on to show 
how difficult it was to make the required rectifications, 
except in peace, and with thoughtful ness and care, 
unless the intention was to set up one set of wrongs 
on the ruins of another, the meeting seemed to assent 
most willingly. I concluded by pointing out how 
failure in a physical conflict would throw them back, 
and fasten them down as thralls of brute force, while 
in a peaceful and intelligent endeavour for the 
establishment of justice, every step forward was 
secured. I conjured them to give up all thought of 
putting matters right by remaining idle, for a month's^ 
holiday was then the intention of the Chartist leaders 
— a sacred month, as it was called. I told them there 
was nothing sacred in idleness, that redemption to 
them and theirs must come, and could only come by 
thinking and working, that all else was delusion and 
must end in disaster. The most marked attention 
was paid to every word I said. Indeed, I can truly 
say that I never addressed a more orderly and 
attentive meeting;. 

I lo Life, Times^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

When the resolution embodying these views was 
moved and seconded, it was carried, with only about 
half-a-dozen dissentients, and amid great applause. 
The test as to the temper of the people was thus 
fairly made. It proved to us, at least, that though 
there might be local disturbances, there could be no 
revolution, and in this conviction we laboured, 
not without success, among the Chartists ; not to 
persuade them out of their opinions, which in the 
main we regarded as correct and sound, but out of 
whatever intention they had of carrying them into 
effect by the help of physical force. 



progress an& Opposition* 

It is not necessary to claim for the Socialists any 
special credit for preventing an outbreak of violence 
in the manufacturing districts during the Chartist 
agitation. They knew that the reports made day by 
day in the newspapers were gross exaggerations, and 
they suspected that those who were labouring to 
create a political terror had unworthy purposes of 
their own to serve which would be defeated if the 
people could be prevented from breaking the law. 

The principles and policy of the social reformers 
alike made them active with this object. Their 
influence was, therefore, zealously exercised to prevent 
any destruction of life or property, and while the 
Bishop of Exeter and others were busy exciting the 
anger of the general public against Robert Owen and 
the Socialists, whom they denounced as promoters of 
bloodshed and enemies to property, these were 
labouring to prevent violence. That the authorities 
were not quite so ignorant of this matter as the 
bishop, may be seen by the following fact. When the 
fever created by the bishop was at its worst, Sir 
Charles Shaw Kennedy, who was at the head of the 
police of the district, and whose headquarters were in 
Manchester, sent to the Social Institution, requesting 

1 1 2 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

that a deputation might wait on him at the Town 
Hall, and four or five persons were sent of whom I 
was one. When we arrived, and were shown into his 
private office, he told us that what he had read in the 
papers had made him desirous to inquire for himself 
what groundwork there was for the extraordinary 
reports about us and our proceedings that had found 
their way into the press. He then went over the 
heads on which he desired information, and without 
hesitation or consultation we replied fully on every 

Sir Charles expressed his ^belief in the truth of 
what we told him, and became, in his turn, quite frank 
in relation to his own views of the action we had 
taken. He referred to the great meeting held in the 
Carpenters' Hall for the purpose of protesting against 
the national holiday, and told us he was so appre- 
hensive that violence would be offered to me, that he 
had sent to the meeting in plain clothes every officer 
that could be spared. Before parting, he said, " I 
quite believe what you have told me, and I utterly 
disbelieve what is said against you. I have means,*' 
he continued, " of finding out what you are doing, and 
if a committee of inquiry should call on me, I am 
prepared to state that you have laboured honestly to 
preserve the peace, and to express my belief that had it 
not been for the influence exercised by your people 
in this district, nothing could have prevented blood- 

During this period the Times newspaper abused 
Robert Owen in "good set terms." His practices 
were spoken of as " monstrous abominations," 
" beastialities," " matured and infernal atrocities," 

Progress and Opposition, ii3 

while he himself and the men who agreed with him 
were described as " execrable monsters." The 
following extract deals with a reference made by 
the Marquis of Normanby to Owen's benevolence : — 

" That this egotistic old Welshman has spent a deal 
of money in the diabolical attempt to Owenise the 
community we do not mean to deny, but where did 
that money come from, and under what understanding 
did he receive it ? When Owen, who originally had 
scarcely a shilling of his own, married Miss Dale, of 
Glasgow, with whoi.i he obtained a large fortune, he 
was a rigid orthodox Dissenter. In virtue of his 
religious profession alone he inherited the immense 
funds of David Dale, his father-in-law, who, had he 
entertained the slightest anticipation of Owen's 
apostacy, would sooner have engulfed them in the 
Clyde. It is very true there was no testamentary 
destination of these funds to prevent the application 
of them in any way whatever ; but, with the perfect 
knowledge which the legatee had, as well of the 
testator's pre-eminent devotedness to the interests of 
pure religion and morality, as of the horror he would 
have felt at the possible prostitution of his property 
for the subversion of those interests, there was 
undoubtedly such a moral obligation not to misapply 
Mr. Dale's estate to purposes foreign to the convictions 
under which he bequeathed it as must have effectually 
controlled every upright man in determining its 
practical application. What is called Owen's benevol- 
ence, therefore, is substantially a breach of trust." 

With the exception of the statement that Owen 
was married to Miss Dale, there is not a particle of 
truth in this abominable attack on the character of a 


114 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

public man. Owen did not receive a large fortune 
with Miss Dale, nor did he spend for the propagation 
of his principles a penny out of any funds but those 
made in his own business. Out of his fortune obtained 
in trade, he purchased lands in the United States, 
which were settled on his family, an annual sum being 
reserved for his own use. Whatever money he spent 
was, in the strictest sense, his own, and neither his 
necessities nor his inclinations led him to traffic in his 
principles. It is doubtful whether there ever lived a 
public man whose motives were more pure or whose 
conduct was more free from anything approaching to 
merited censure. 

I have been informed by those who were with him 
when these attacks were made upon him, that he 
wrote to the Times, to correct its misrepresentations, 
but his letter was not inserted. He then sent an 
advertisement of his works, that those who were so 
disposed might judge for themselves of his aims and 
intentions, but this was also refused insertion. 
Against this sort of attack there is no defence, unless 
other members of the press are disposed to open their 
columns. This was the case to some limited extent 
when charges of assassination were brought against 
Mazzini. It was the case, also, when charges of 
exciting to plunder were made against Messrs. 
Cobden and Bright. Owen, however, had no means 
of reply. He was declared to be an enemy of religion, 
family, and property, and the press generally felt it a 
duty to pour its wrath on his head, and at the same 
time prevent, so far as it could, explanation, denial, or 
protest. In these days, when the character of. a 
public man had to be destroyed, there was an auda- 

Progress and Opposition. 115 

city, an unscrupulousness and a dash not to be sur- 

It is a curious fact in connection with popular 
leaders and their efiforts, that the chief force by which 
they are, as a rule, opposed, should be the force of 
personal calumny and malicious imputation. It is 
questionable whether the history of popular move- 
ments can furnish one case in contradiction to this 
statement The purest motives, the most blameless 
life, the noblest aims, give no security against this vile 
custom, whenever, in the cause of truth or of public 
justice, an interest is disturbed or a prejudice touched. 
Owen's life was altogether exceptional, by its temper- 
ance, its kindliness, its devotion and sacrifice. He 
thought no ill, he practised no wrong, and never under 
any provocation returned evil for evil, and yet he was 
represented day by day as a monster of iniquity, whose 
life had been spent in planning and advocating spolia- 
tion of property, corruption of morals, and of every- 
thing that men prize as tending to sanctify human 

During these days of conflict, Robert Owen was 
employing himself in preaching and teaching the 
leading ideas of his system, by the adoption of which 
he hoped to see the comfort of the people and the 
prosperity of the nation increased ; and, above all, the 
intelligence of the people so improved by sound 
education as to secure a satisfactory progress for the 
country. An examination of the Neiv Moral World 
will show that at this time increased opposition only 
produced increased activity and determination ; and 
while misrepresentation and falsehood may have 
caused timid and bigoted people to keep at a distance 

ii6 Li/e, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

from the movement, the courageous and inquiring 
were in large numbers attracted to it 

Those who were active as writers and speakers on 
behalf of Robert Owen's ideas, so far as these ideas 
were accepted by the social movement, did not confine 
themselves to mere defensive action. The war was 
carried into the enemy's camp. The plan was to 
collect the statistics of education for the purpose of 
proving a criminal neglect of duty on the part of the 
Government, the Church, and others in authority, who, 
while wrangling over political party differences and 
rival sectarian dogmas, were allowing the people to 
remain in an ignorance so deplorable that they were 
incapable of understanding, much less performing, the 
most ordinary and necessary duties of everyday life. 
The socialist teachers had free access everywhere to 
the homes of the people. Eveajhe very poorest and 
most degraded communicated fre^ with the leaders 
of the movement, as they were brou^t into contact 
with them by working men, who were^known to them, 
and could converse with them without suspicion or 

I myself visited the worst parts of Glasgow — the 
" Goose Dubbs,'* the " New Vennel," and certain parts 
of the wynds in the " High Street " close to the college. 
When I undertook this visitation, I was prepared to 
see much that would shock and distress me, but I had 
no conception of the actual state of things. To write 
a description of all that I saw would be impossible. 
The dirt, the rags, the squalor, the evidences of hunger, 
the expression of hopelessness on the faces of the 
women, the appearance of the children, and the horror 
of the whole thing as the condition of life for multi- 

Progress and Opposition, 117 

tudes of people generation after generation, shocked 
the heart and almost paralysed the understanding. I 
was compelled to abandon the exploration on which 
I had entered. Nerves of steel would have been re- 
quired to carry such a task through to the end, and I 
had not got them. What I did see, however, filled me 
with determination to go forward with the work I had 
commenced, and it was in this way, by investigations in- 
to the facts of life, that we met those who opposed us. 
Our weapons were not forged out of anger, springing 
from the unjust attacks of our opponents, but from a 
sympathy with poor human victims of neglect, whose 
sufferings and vices had come to be regarded by the 
community as necessary concomitants of a progressive 

In addition to the Bishop of Exeter and his 
prompter, Mr. Brindley, there were four of less note in 
the field against Robert Owen, namely Joseph Barker, 
John Easby, a person named Hawthorne, and another 
named Pallister. Joseph Barker possessed considerable 
cleverness, but the other three had little or no skill 
in argument. They could repeat misrepresentations, 
and in this way sometimes caused the discharge of a 
few men from their employment, and on two or three 
occasions excited the mob to violence ; but beyond 
this their opposition was serviceable to the movement 
rather than otherwise. These persons played on the 
prejudices of people, many of whom, among the work- 
ing classes, were ignorant and easily excited, but there 
were large numbers who knew that however much we 
might disagree with them on certain points, we were 
their active and zealous friends on all political 
and social questions in which they took an interest. 

ii8 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

The progress made in spreading the principles 
advocated by the Socialists was rapid during this 
time. Large halls for holding public meetings were 
erected in the various towns in the manufacturing 
districts. In Manchester, a hall was built, which was 
afterwards purchased and opened as the free library 
of that town. These halls were used for lectures, 
classes, social gatherings, and discussions on all im- 
portant public questions. It is doubtful if there was 
ever a period during which, in connection with the 
manufacturing population of the country, there existed 
so much activity in the direction of earnest inquiry ; 
and the importance of a training such as this for 
working men can, I think, scarcely be over-estimated 
in a country the progress of which depends so much 
on an enlightened public opinion. 


IRiota at JSuralem an& JSrfstoL 

The crusade against Robert Owen and the Socialists 
was, at certain places, becoming dangerously active, 
in consequence of the anger excited by those for 
whom the Bishop of Exeter was acting in the House 
of Lords. The people generally, even though they 
could not be regarded as encouraging the agitation, 
did not actively oppose it. Nor did the Government 
oppose it. The proceedings of the Socialists were 
carried on within doors, they made no offensive 
public demonstrations, nor did they do anything to 
arouse public anger. Still, during the years from 1838 
to 1842, an opposition was organised for the purpose of 
hunting down, by public clamour, persons, who in the 
promulgation of their principles, refused to be in- 
timidated by men incited to activity by ignorance 
and prejudice. Mr. Brindley was the principal in- 
strument in this work, and whether to his credit or 
discredit, it is right to say that no one could have 
laboured with more zeal. It was he who instructed 
the Bishop of Exeter. What the bishop uttered in 
the House of Lords gave the cue to the press, and 
between him and the newspapers, most extraordinary 
conceptions of Robert Owen and his plans took 
possession of the minds of large numbers of people, 


1 20 LifCy Times y and Labours of Robert Owen. 

who became warm in their antagonism, without tak- 
ing much trouble to ascertain whether or not they 
were justified in what they were doing. 

Mr. Brindley went up and down the kingdom, and 
wherever he went, by placards and meetings, he 
managed to inflame the minds of the violent, the 
bigoted, and the ignorant. In the June of 1840, he 
visited the Staffordshire Potteries. The patronage of 
some few of the bishops, and a considerable number 
of the clergy of the Established Church, together 
with an adverse address by the Wesleyan Congress 
to the people of that denomination, caused many of 
the employers to give open support to Mr. Brindley, 
not only by subscribing to defray the expense of his 
efforts, but by dismissing from their employment 
persons known to be friends and adherents of Owen. 
Mr. Brindley 's success in the Potteries was very con- 
siderable ; public buildings were engaged for him, in 
which he delivered exciting addresses, and the tickets 
of admission to such meetings were bought by the 
employers, and distributed among the people who 
worked for them. Arrangements were made for a 
discussion in the National Schoolroom at Burslem, 
between Mr. Brindley and Mr. Robert Buchanan, but 
without consulting Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Brindley and 
his supporters changed the place of meeting to the 
covered market, and took the precaution to have it 
well filled with their friends before the other side 
was aware. In fact, so violent and unscrupulous 
were their proceedings, and so great the number of 
people who suffered through being thrown out of 
employment, that it was considered best to act 
quietly, though firmly, until the worst of the storm 

Riots at Burslem and Bristol, 121 

had blown over. The years 1838 and 1839 were 
years of great depression in trade, during which the 
working people suffered much, whilst 1840 was a 
year of slow recovery, and as the pressure of bad 
times on the workers was becoming gradually re- 
lieved by increase of employment, it was decided not 
to do anything that could be avoided through which 
suffering might be brought on struggling men who 
were at the mercy of those disposed to act at the 
instigation of Mr. Brindley and his friends. During 
this time arrangements had been made for a course 
of lectures to be delivered by Robert Owen, at 
different towns, and the principal public halls were 
engaged. In each case the agreement was violated, 
and the halls refused. In addition to this, the 
following placard, without signature or printer's name, 
was extensively posted. " Owen again ! at Dalehall. 
Mr. Owen, after being driven out of Newcastle and 
Stoke, is coming here to-night, at six o'clock, to 
propagate his blasphemous principles. Will you 
have him after Friday night's exposure? If not, 
assemble before the meeting, in a peaceable and 
orderly manner, and respectfully, but firmly and 
decidedly, declare that this poison shall no more be 
retailed among you." That this peaceful and orderly 
assembly might not be deficient in the element 
needed, drums and fifes were sent through the town in 
various directions, and a crowd of several thousands 
of the roughest portion of the inhabitants was col- 
lected, while a platform was erected for the purpose 
of holding an opposition meeting exactly opposite 
the institution where the meeting of Robert Owen 
was about to take place. The playing of music and 

122 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert 0%ven, 

the processions through the town led to much drink- 
ing, the h'quors being, for the most part, supplied free 
of cost. Addresses of a most violent kind were 
delivered from the platform, and everything was in a 
state of preparation. Mr. Owen arrived a few minutes 
before seven o'clock, in a gig, accompanied by a 
young friend from Stoke ; but before he could alight, 
an effort was made to upset the gig, for the purpose 
of inflicting personal injury. To prevent this, 
his friends went to his assistance — he was at this 
time seventy years of age — and got him safely out of 
the gig, though several were savagely beaten while do- 
ing so — one young man having his jaw bone broken. 
The police, being, no doubt, previously instructed, 
looked calmly on. The mob, being overwhelming, 
forced Mr. Owen through the streets to the house of 
a man who was one of his most active enemies, where 
he had to remain for two hours the object of gross 
insult. At the end of this time Mr. Williams, a 
friendly solicitor, arrived to take him home with him, 
but the moment Owen appeared he was assailed with 
stones and mud, from which he had to again take 
shelter. After a time, however, he got safely off to 
the neighbouring town where he was staying. 

Mr. Alexander Campbell, the social missionary 
who attended Mr. Owen, not knowing what bad 
become of him, was making his way through the mob 
in search of him, but found that he had got off. Mrs. 
Williams, the wife of the solicitor above referred to, was 
with Mr. Campbell anxiously looking forOwen, who was 
her guest. As soon as they discovered that he had 
escaped they began making their way back, but Mr. 
Campbell was recognised. He was at once separ- 

Riots at Burs lent and Bristol, 123 

ated from the lady who accompanied him, and 
severely beaten. In his efforts to escape, he had to 
pass over a field and a canal bridge, and here an 
attempt was made to throw him into the canal ; he 
escaped, however, and took refuge in a house where 
he had to remain for several hours. 

The persons who had assembled in the hall to hear 
the address fared no better. The account published 
at the time says that when it became known that Mr. 
Owen was forcibly prevented from lecturing, the 
audience was dismissed ; but on leaving the institution 
they were most inhumanly treated, their clothes being 
torn, and, in some instances, the hair pulled from their 
heads. Those who organized the meeting remained 
behind, and were at once besieged. An attempt was 
made to force the door, which had been strongly 
barricaded. This failing, a room adjoining the lecture 
hall was taken possession of, and a breach made in 
the party wall. Here a fierce battle ensued, the at- 
tacking party being driven back. A double attempt 
to enter was then made — one from the cellars, and 
another from the roof of the building. A clergyman 
and the head constable then put in an appearance, 
and tried to obtain a surrender, offering a free and 
save passage if the parties promised not to assemble 
again in their own hall. This offer was refused, and 
after some further parley it was agreed that they 
should be allowed to return home unmolested. It 
was then arranged that several women who were there, 
the wives of some of the party, should leave first, on 
the supposition that no attack would be made on 
women. The men, not being sure of this, followed 
close behind, and their suspicions were well founded. 


124 LifCy Times y and Labours of Robert Owen, 

One woman received a severe blow on the head, 
while the secretary of the institution had his head 
badly cut through his hat by a stone. They again 
took shelter in a private house, and here they had to 
remain till late into the night when the mob dispersed. 
No attempt was made to check these proceedings, and 
bands of music were allowed by the police to parade 
the town for the purpose of keeping up the excitement 
till late at night, and, although several persons were 
severely wounded, nobody was arrested. The press 
took the same approving view as that taken by the 
authorities. The Staffordshire Gazette^ describing the 
treatment of Mr. Campbell, says : — " A large party of 
individuals pursued and overtook him, and proceeded 
to treat him without ceremony. They rolled their 
victim in the field, and afterwards anointed him with 
that more useful than agreeable material, clay, like- 
wise subjecting him to that elegant process called 
' bonneting.' Eventually he made his escape to the 
Britannia Inn, Navigation Road, and we apprehend 
that the worthy people of Longport will, after this 
spectacle, not be inclined rejoicingly to sing *The 
Campbells are Coming.' " Such proceedings as these, 
however, are not to be considered as fairly exhibiting 
the spirit of the people towards the Socialists. No- 
thing approaching to riot or personal violence was in- 
dulged in by the people when left to themselves, but 
only where Mr. Brindley, or some person like him, in 
league with one or two clergymen of the fanatical 
sort, set themselves to work to excite them. Besides, 
this sort of opposition never spread. Where the 
irritation was provoked it occurred, and as soon as the 
incentive was withdrawn all became quiet again. 

Riots at Burslem and Bristol. 125 

About six months after this, Mr. Brindley exerted 
himself to create in Congleton and Macclesfield the 
same spirit he had called into existence in the Pot- 
teries. He was so successful that large numbers of 
persons were discharged from their employment, and 
this method of dealing with the progress of Robert 
Owen^s views was spreading so rapidly, that it pro- 
duced quite a panic among all who had in any way 
expressed opinions favourable to them. Mr. Joseph 
Smith was sent to Congleton to neutralise the effect 
Brindley was producing, and when things were in this 
state I happened to arrive in Manchester on my way 
from Glasgow to London. A deputation from Mac- 
clesfield and Congleton waited on me, with a request 
that I would go among them, and help in the defence 
they were making. I at once started, and had Cong- 
leton placarded for two addresses. Mr. Brindley had 
possession of the Town Hall, and had meetings on 
the same night. Some half-dozen of the leading men 
of the town waited on me, and begged me to go to 
Mr. Brindley 's meetings, and discuss the matters in 
dispute between us there. I at once refused, being 
determined not to be drawn from the line I had laid 
down for myself and announced to the public. My 
first meeting was crowded and most successful. Next 
morning an insolent placard was issued, for the pur- 
pose of forcing me into compliance with the wishes of 
Mr. Brindley and his supporters. It ran thus : — 
" Mr. Lloyd Jones — will you, dare j^ou, meet Mr. 
Brindley to-night, no shuffling, no evasion ; but a fair 
manly open discussion ? Unless you are a downright 
coward, turn out. Unless you feel assured that Social- 
ism is the foul abortion that it is, come and submit it 

126 LifCy TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen. 

to a fair trial. Now all will be able to see who it is 
that is afraid the truth should prevail." 

To this absurd bombast I replied by a refusal, 
given from the mouth of that ancient authority, the 
bellman, to depart from the programme already ar- 
ranged. My meeting that night was densely crowded, 
the door having been fastened to prevent pressure. 
The men who had got Mr. Brindley's tickets from 
their employers to attend the meeting at the Town 
Hall came to my meeting, and left Mr. Brindley, the 
employers and clergy to comfort each other. In 
the middle of my address the door was forced open, 
and the mayor, several of the corporation, and other 
gentlemen of that class, rushed into the meeting, 
forced their way to the front of the platform, and put 
Mr. Brindley forward to commence a discussion. I 
had made my arrangements, and at once told Mr. 
Brindley that if he persisted in speaking he should be 
ejected. He did persist, and at a word from me two 
strong young men lifted him up, carried him to the door, 
and deposited him outside, his clerical and manu- 
facturing friends following of themselves. This was 
very quietly done, and when they were fairly gone, 
the mayor got up to address the meeting. I asked 
him if he intended to speak as the mayor of the town 
or as a private person — if as the mayor, I promised a 
respectful hearing, but if as a private gentleman he 
should be put out as Mr. Brindley had been. He 
meant to speak, he declared, in a non-official capacity, 
but after what had been said, he would withdraw. He 
did so, and my meeting proceeded to the end in per- 
fect order, and to the satisfaction of those assembled. 

The next day I waited on the mayor at the court- 

Riots at Burstetn and Bristol, 1 27 

house, and talked matters over with him and his 
brother magistrates at a private interview, which 
ended in an understanding, at once carried out, that 
they would use all their influence to get the discharged 
men taken back by their employers. During the 
following week I held a three nights' discussion with 
Brindley, in the large schoolroom at Macclesfield — 
the vicar, Mr. Burnett, in the chair. I fully ex- 
plained our principles and objects, exposed the false- 
hoods so industriously circulated, and established a 
peace that was not afterwards disturbed. 

While these things were taking place in Congleton 
and Macclesfield, a legal crusade was being carried on 
in Manchester, to compel the taking of the dissenting 
ministers* oath by the social missionaries. There 
were some law proceedings, and finally Mr. Buchanan 
took the oath. At Bristol, some few months after, 
being summoned before the magistrates to do the 
same, I did it without a moment's hesitation. This 
proceeding has been declared as having caused a re- 
volt in the society. This is not the fact, inasmuch 
that in the movement led by Robert Owen no man 
was questioned as to his religious belief, so no man 
was controlled as to his willingness or unwillingness 
to be sworn. It was never made a subject of discus- 
sion in the society, as in such matters every man was 
left to do what appeared right in his own eyes. Our 
halls were, as a rule, licensed as places of worship, and 
a license was necessary to make speakingin them lawful, 
should it be demanded. The demand in two or three 
cases was made, as an obstacle to our proceedings. 
It failed, and there the matter ended, without causing 
disturbance, discussion, or division of any kind. 

128 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

The Bristol riots were the most serious that took 
place in connection with the public teaching of Robert 
Owen. Like those of Burslem, they were designedly 
and wantonly produced, but the danger attending them 
while they lasted never extended beyond the spot on 
which they occurred. There was no extensive and 
powerful organisation behind them. Mr. Brindley, as 
the agent of certain parties who subscribed to pay his 
expenses, appeared at certain points at certain times, 
and from the moment he made his appearance to the 
time he took his departure, there was excitement and 
sometimes riot ; but when he withdrew everything 
became quiet. 

About six months after the Burslem attack, Owen 
visited Bristol, his friends there having taken and 
fitted up a large hall in Broadmead. He was to ad- 
dress the public on the occasion of its opening. Mr. 
Brindley got to the town before him, and by the time 
he arrived, had stirred up a very strong feeling against 
him by resorting to his usual system of false represen- 
tation. Owen's books were publicly burned, and a 
serious attack was made on his life. As he was 
entering a cab to drive to his hotel, it was suddenly 
seized by the wheels, and on the point of being over- 
turned, when he was dragged from it by his friends, 
and surrounded by a party of resolute men, who kept 
the mob off by sheer fighting. In an entry into 
which his friends pushed him, at the same time firmly 
guarding the entrance, some sort of disguise was 
adopted, and by the friendliness of one of the resi- 
dents, he was led through a back passage, and in that 
way got to his inn without suffering injury. 

News of the danger to which he had been exposed 

Riots at Bur stem and Bristol, 129 

arrived next day in London, and I started at once, 
travelling all night, so as to be with him as soon as 
possible. At that time (the January of 1841), the 
railway only went as far as Reading, and from there 
the coach continued the journey to Bristol. It was a 
hard winter, and the night was bitterly cold, so that 
when I got to Bristol in the morning, 1 was by no 
means in a comfortable condition. I found that 
Owen s friends, being convinced that his life was in 
danger, had begged of him to return at once to Lon- 
don by the early coach. After much pressing he 
complied, and I must have passed him as he was 
leaving the town. The condition of things was not 
very cheering. The large hall in Broadmead, which 
had been newly fitted up, was in a state of utter 
wreck. The seats were all broken, the rostrum torn 
down, the gas fittings demolished, the doors and 
windows smashed, and all that could be done in the 
way of destruction fully accomplished. This had 
•taken place on the previous evening, so that be- 
tween the wrecked building and the excited state of 
public feeling, I felt that however my visit might end, 
its beginning was not of the most propitious kind. I 
went that night to a meeting of Mr. Brindley*s, held 
at a large circus in the town, and on the following 
.night held my first meeting, the hall in Broadmead 
having been hurriedly fitted up again by a crowd of 
young volunteer workmen. Somewhere about three 
thousand persons were packed into the building, while 
outside the crowd was dense and excited. No dis- 
cussion was allowed until I had said all I intended to 
say, and though Mr. Brindley and his friends did all 
they could to throw the meeting into disorder, it 


130 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

finished peaceably, and with good effect in allaying 

When I got into the street to return home, I was 
surrounded by a furious mob, that yelled at me and 
made other angry manifestations. In a short time 
stones began to fly, several of our party, including 
myself, being struck. We took refuge in a public- 
house, and barricaded the doors and windows on the 
ground floor. The police, hearing of the riot, soon 
arrived, and we escaped, under their protection, at the 
back of the premises; and, though we were discovered 
and the mob signalled to, we managed to get a cab 
and drive off too rapidly to be overtaken. The police 
acted very well. While one of them jumped on the 
box-seat to direct the driver, the others faced round 
and kept back the advancing crowd. 

The next night I lectured again, and everything 
went off quietly inside the building. The mob out- 
side was, however, more numerous than on the previ- 
ous night. There was no way of getting out at the 
back of the building, as the premises in that direction 
abutted on a river, and had neither door nor windows, 
jior was there any means of egress at the sides, while 
in front a long passage built in on each side made it 
necessary to pass out right into the midst of the mob. 
The constables, who had been sent into the meeting, 
arranged that they would walk at some little distance 
before and behind me, while about twenty young men 
were placed around me. In this order- we moved 
right into the crowd and along the road leading out 
of the city toward the place where I was staying. 

The struggle began the moment we left the hall, 
and for about a mile it was carried on fiercely. 

Riots at Burslem and Bristol, 131 

Sometimes by a determined pressure of the crowd we 
were forced back ; then again we were forced to the 
right or left, as the opening of a street gave oppor- 
tunity. It was quite clear the mob was under the 
control of certain leaders, as their object the whole 
time seemed to be to separate me from those who 
were protecting me, and deal with me singly. The 
police saw that the situation was becoming very 
dangerous, and instead of advancing straight to where 
I had taken up my quarters, they turned suddenly 
into a police station, close to the street we were in, 
and as soon as they entered fastened the doors. Re- 
inforcements arrived, the portion of the mob nearest 
the building was driven back, and for the moment I 
was safe. A rumour that I had been killed by the 
mob got circulated, and several persons of respectable 
position in the city came to the police office, and 
when they found that I was safe, offered me refuge in 
their houses ; but I declined, and having changed my 
overcoat and slightly disguised myself, I left by a 
back door, and, passing through two divisions of the 
mob which were on the look-out for me, reached home 
in safety. 

The morning after, as I sat at breakfast, a man 
called and inquired for me, and when he was shown 
into the room, where I sat alone, he looked at me and 
said, "I am glad you are safe.**, I asked him his 
business, and he told me that he was appointed to 
attend all my meetings, and report to the Govern- 
ment ; that this was his business in Bristol, and that 
he was most anxious I should not get into trouble. 
He had, he said, to report what I said, and if I at any 
time talked wildly, harm would come of it. "I do 

132 LifCy Times y and Labours of Robert Owen, 

not think you will/* he said, " but as I entirely believe 
in the work you are doing, I am anxious you should 
continue it without injury to yourself." Having thus 
delivered himself, he bid me " Good-morning," and 
hurried out of the room. After he was gone, it struck 
me that there was on his face, as he spoke, a painful 
look of self-accusation, and I have from that moment 
entertained a kindly remembrance of the man who, 
being placed in such a position, could perform such 
an act. Nothing very particular occurred after this, 
beyond an attempt at assault one night when I was 
alone, but as I carried a good stick, I had no difficulty 
in getting rid of my assailants. I remained in Bristol 
for some weeks, but was never again in similar danger. 
After this Mr. Brindley tried his fortune in London, 
where I, through my friends, arranged for a debate in 
the theatre of the Coliseum, Regent's Park, which 
attracted a good deal of attention, and did much in 
bringing Robert Owen's views under discussion with 
the general public. There was no disturbance of 
any kind, and everything went ofT satisfactorily. 
Then Mr. Brindley made his appearance at Birming- 
ham, to which town I followed him, Robert Owen 
going with me. At Birmingham, as well as in London, 
the verdict of the public, taken by resolution, was 
overwhelmingly with us. It became apparent that 
what was meant to crush us was rapidly giving us 
strength, hence in a short time Mr. Brindley ceased 
to trouble the public as an active and noisy opponent 
of Socialism, and after some small tribute to him, got 
up chiefly by the clergy, he disappeared so far as we 
were concerned, and was no more heard of. An at- 
tempt was made in the early part of 1840 to burn the 

Riots at Btirslem and Bristol, 133 

Manchester Institution, and there occurred some minor 
attempts at assault in different parts of the country, 
but beyond this there is nothing to record of any 
consequence as violent interference with the proceed- 
ings of the Socialists. 

The impression made on the mind of Robert Owen, 
and on the 'minds of those who joined with him in 
this agitation, which extended fully over ten years, 
was that a fairer, more tolerant, and well-disposed 
audience cannot be got together, than one composed 
of the average run of the working class in the manu- 
facturing districts of Great Britain. Had Owen and 
his followers not been grossly misrepresented, and the 
doctrines they taught designedly misinterpreted by 
men whose object it was to excite the worst prejudices 
in a class below that of our ordinary working people, 
it is fair to surmise that no disturbance would have 
taken place. Having had a special experience in 
connection with excited crowds at public meetings, I 
may say that where a hearing was granted, I never 
knew sound argument fail in producing a satisfactory 
result. There is, no doubt, much unfairness in 
sectarian contentions, in contentions where money 
interests are at stake, and when the conflicts of party 
politics become hot. In such cases there are fixed, 
foregone conclusions, and heat and violence too 
frequently take the place of argument; but away from 
such questions and the excitement they beget, it may 
be asserted that there is in Great Britain as clear a 
" stage " and as little " favour " as men of the world 
desirous of preserving the amenities of debate need 
wish for. 

In passing on to the effort to establish an industrial 

1 34 lAfe, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

community, it must be borne in mind that from the 
commencement of the agitation, its promoters had 
two objects in view. There was, as it were, a society 
within a society, each society having its own duties 
and objects, though at all times in strict agreement 
one with the other. The larger section may be 
described as purely propagandist. Its object was to 
make known to the general public the principles of 
Robert Owen in regard to the formation of character, 
and the necessity of education as a check to vice and 
crime. In addition it exposed existing evils in con- 
nection with the industrial system of the country, and 
urged the necessity for practical effort with the view 
of bringing the worker into better relation with his 
work, that poverty and misery might cease to be the 
general and almost constant attendants on labour. 

The expenses necessary for carrying on the agita- 
tion were paid by weekly subscriptions imposed on 
the people by themselves, and there was no responsi- 
bility incurred beyond this, as, while education was 
insisted on as a national duty, and improvement in 
the condition of the people urged as a matter of 
supreme necessity, nobody was pledged to any special 
effort for the purpose of realising either of these 
objects. The great aim was the extension of a belief 
in the truth of certain principles and a faith in their 
practicability. In fact, the propagandism carried on 
was simply a preparation of the ground with a view 
to practical action, and as there was nothing to rely 
on but public opinion, and the support to be derived 
from it, the efforts of Owen and his friends were to 
create such public belief in their ideas as might lead 
to these ideas being acted upon. 

Riots at Bursleni and Bristol, 135 

This society was called, very ambitiously, the 
" Association of all Classes of all Nations," but this 
was not so much in the expectation that it had any 
chance of becoming what such a title implied, as to 
express the fact that it was open to all, without any 
kind of exclusion on grounds of country, class, or creed. 

Inside the larger society, and worked by an organi- 
sation of its own, was the ** Community Friendly 
Society," which had for its object the promotion of 
practical effort. It enrolled members who desired to 
see a model village for industrial and educational 
purposes established, and who were willing to subscribe 
for such a purpose. Its members were not so 
numerous as those of the propagandist association, 
but they paid a much larger and a separate sum as 
a weekly subscription. In the one case a penny per 
week was found sufficient to carry forward the general 
work, while the members of the "Community Friendly 
Society " paid one shilling a week each in addition. 
This society was recruited from the other, but those 
not subscribing for community purposes could not 
interfere with the conduct of its business, nor could 
they be elected as inmates to any establishment that 
might be set on foot. During the whole of the agita- 
tion described in previous chapters, the " Community 
Friendly Society " was going quietly on with its own 
special work. It gathered in adherents, collected 
subscriptions, discussed projects and plans, kept in 
view offers for the sale or letting of lands, such as 
might suit the purpose it had in view, and considered 
how best to proportion trade, education, and agri- 
culture, so as to promote the success of the projected 


practical ©petatfona. 

At the annual Congress of 1840, the Central 
Board made the following report to the society in 
relation to practical operations on the land. 

" Since the last annual session of Congress, the estate, 
situate at East Tytherly, in the county of Hants, has 
been secured by the directors on a lease of ninety- 
nine years ; and it is now vested in trustees on behalf 
of the society, and preparatory steps for the establish- 
ment of a community have been taken to the extent 
that the collected funds of the society admit. The 
estate consists, as stated in page 140 of the report of 
last Congress, of two farms, one of 301 acres, named 
Queenwood, which is tithe free ; the other of 232 
acres, which is extra-parochial, named Buckholt. 
The annual rent is ;^3SO, having been fined down 
from ;^37S, by payment of ;^750 ; and the society have 
power further to fine down the rent to ;£^30O, ;£^25o, 
and ;£'200, on making three successive payments of 
;£"i,5oo each. Possession of this property was obtained 
on Tuesday, the first day of October, 1839, when the 
directors paid the sum of ;£" 1, 694 for the stock upon 
the farms, it having been valued, according to the 
custom of the country, at that sum." 

This was an important step. A great deal had 

Practical Operations, 137 

been done in propagandism as a preparation for it, 
but over the whole time, there had been much 
difference of opinion as to the policy to be pursued in 
practically working out the society's plans. There 
was always a party in the society that professed not 
to believe in talking, and who grumbled at lectures, 
discussions, or public meetings of any kind that did 
not directly insist on practical work on the land. 
They saw no disadvantage in an inadequate public 
support, and not much in a deficiency of funds, or 
even in a lack of agreement as to necessary pre- 
liminaries. On the other hand, there was a very strong 
party who were thoroughly convinced as to the 
necessity of continued and extended propagandist 
effort. Excellent results were becoming daily mani- 
fest from the teaching that was carried on. Large 
numbers of people were joining the movement, in 
the manufacturing districts more particularly ; and 
not only were these, as members of the association, 
giving life and progress to the agitation, but the 
general public, notwithstanding the opposition of Mr. 
Brindley and his supporters, was rapidly coming to 
understand that although our proceedings stirred up 
religious disputations, the main, in fact, the only 
object of our association was to promote education, 
and to improve the condition of the working people 
of the country, without disturbing order, or in any 
way attacking property. 

Our missionaries were, for the most part, young, 
active, and zealous men, who acted by direction of 
the central authority ; while the district lecturers 
operatedv locally for the branches by which they were 
engaged, and, hence, there was a constant, properly 

138 Life, Times ^ and Labours of Robert Ozven. 

super\-ised system of teachin<^ going forward in 
thorough sympathy with the people. It is therefore 
reasonable to suppose that if ten additional years had 
been given to this kind of work, a mass of public 
opinion would have been prepared, by which the 
inertia that was allowing things to go their o\\ti way 
in the direction of ignorance, vice, and misery, would 
have been effectively antagonised. It w^as an old 
dispute that cropped up among the social reformers, 
just as it had done in past days in all sorts of move- 
ments, and as it will in future, whenever men have to 
act together for common ends. The tendency of 
persons who cannot talk will always be to believe that 
they can work, and in this belief to do much mischief 
by attempting to act without the necessary conditions 
of success ; while the tendency of eloquent propa- 
gandists will be to avoid such practical experiments 
as they think unlikely to bring the desired results. 
There is, no doubt, a true point of action between the 
two ; but, like many true points, it will be difficult to 
hit On the other hand, where contention is strong, it 
will be easy to miss, and in this instance there can be 
no doubt that it was missed. 

Robert Owen himself stood stoutly out against 
premature action, and up to the last moment he 
insisted that that which was contemplated was too 
hurried. At this time, however, there were outside 
causes operating to produce premature activity. A 
small landed proprietor had declared himself a 
convert to the principles, and a believer in the plans 
of the Socialists. He was a man of good address and 
some ability, and he took advantage of the organisa- 
tion to go from place to place, address meetings, and 

Practical Operations. 139 

make offers to such as were disposed to join him. 
There was also a man of the same sort in Wales, who 
had land to experiment on, and who was anxious to 
set up a colony. A third experiment of a different 
kind was also in preparation. Rightly or wrongly, 
these things influenced Owen s movement, and helped 
to throw obstacles in its way, as both the men above 
alluded to got money and labour invested in their 
land, without giving any security for either, and, in 
the end, kept possession of what they had obtained. 
These did not start before the society, but their 
preparations hurried forward its project. 

Owen at first declared he would withdraw himself 
from the movement, but as this would have amounted 
to a breaking up of the whole thing, he reluctantly 
consented to continue, though under very distinct protest 
against the policy of rashness that had been adopted, 
and with an understanding that nothing of importance 
should be done without his knowledge and consent. 
Upon this understanding he was appointed governor 
on condition that he should hold office nominally 
until, at the following Congress, the whole matter 
should be fully discussed. It will be seen from what 
is stated here, that the acquisition of an estate was 
not regarded by many people connected with the 
movement as an unmixed good. The initial 
difficulties ought to have prevented the step taken. 
The capital in hand was utterly inadequate to the 
carrying through of such an undertaking. A good 
deal was promised, and much of this was forthcoming 
when wanted, but a certain outlay, that had to be made, 
and could not be postponed, was not adequately 
provided for by a contingent and uncertain income. 

irT^':Tt were ttj bci^i:::^ oo the ^^ate bev'ond an 
ol/f ikTr:S:rj::jyt 2sA s-scsc ord."nar>- farm buildings, in 
cor.^ec jerjce of which the foresiKist requisite of the 
ncTT crAony consisted in accommodation for the first 
hatch of re5:dent5u Three gentlemen were appointed 
as d(!rputy governor, agncu'tural manager, and resident 
trustee, to direct and manage the undertaking. A 
good -sized hrrick building was first erected, which was 
intended to subsequently ser\'e for a school The 
upper floor was divided into apartments for the first 
Ix:op!e who arrived, the ground floor being used for 
giving lessons to the children already there, and as a 

The land was not good and did not promise average 
crops, but, by proper treatment, in a season or two it 
yielded very satisfactory returns. Large garden 
grounds for the use of the people were laid out, and 
an abundance of the best vegetables planted and 
grown. Good gardeners who were members of the 
society were sent to the estate, together with a 
number of skilled artisans. The stock on the farm 
was increased, and a larger breadth of land manured 
and sown than many of the neighbouring farmers 
thought prudent, but it turned out well, and on this 
head no difficulty arose. 

In a few months there was quite a little colony 
settled on the land, but as the members of the society 
had been sent from the manufacturing districts, and 
were skilled workmen, their labour was employed in 
skilled work, while the agricultural labourers of the 
neighbourhood, instead of being superseded, found 
themselves fully employed, and on better conditions 
us to wages and general treatment. "Queenwood," 

Practical Operations. 141 

though in its situation and surroundings already a 
beautiful place, gradually began, in the hands of the 
industrious people who had been sent there, to 
assume an improved appearance. Those who were 
set to work out the experiment were sober, indus- 
trious, intelligent men, who had been led to study the 
conditions of society as they found it in their own 
experience ; who had revolted against the painful 
lives led by the working people, and who determined 
to make an experiment with a view to elevate and 
improve them. The difficulties which had to be 
encountered did not detract from the merit of the 
attempt, as these difficulties were nearly altogether 
of a pecuniary kind, such as often defeat the best 
understood and most ordinary business. The land had 
to be properly cultivated ; buildings to be erected 
suitable for residence, and for carrying out efficiently 
the several objects in view. One of the first of these 
objects was to establish a good school in which to 
educate the children of the people resident on the 
estate, and also the children of such as could afford 
to pay a charge to cover the cost of good plain living, 
and teaching ; and, at the same time, leave something 
towards defraying the expenses of the establish- 

As a principal source of jncome, the intention was 
to draft workers in various skilled trades to the 
estate, whose labour did not require extensive and 
costly machinery ; and the produce of whose in- 
dustry might be disposed of to the general public 
and to the various branches of the society. The 
difficulties attending such an undertaking were never 
overlooked. From the first it was felt that unless 

142 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

sufficient funds were supplied from the outside, it 
could never be successful. The sums supplied 
were not sufficient. Active operations were scarcely 
commenced, when it was discovered that the money 
at command was scarcely enough to stock and work 
the farm, and that if the experiment had to rely on 
the support of the society, it would collapse before 
the plan could be tested on its merits. This was no 
time to bandy accusations ; the impatient practical 
men were rapidly discovering that impatience is the 
least practical thing connected with human affairs, 
and that " raw haste " is not only *' half-sister to 
delay," but is also the mother of endless disappoint- 
ments and failures. 

Mr. John Finch, of Liverpool, who was appointed 
deputy governor, was a very excellent man, full of 
honesty of purpose and good intention ; but Vather 
deficient in insight and tact. He was kindly in 
spirit, and prepared to do all in his power for the 
comfort and welfare of the people with whom he had 
to deal. He had, however, a half joking way of say- 
ing unpleasant things which made him rather un- 
popular, and though the differences that occurred 
between the people and the deputy-governor, seldom 
involved anything which was not referable to faults of 
temper on one side or the other, they constituted an 
unfitness that rendered Mr. Finch's withdrawal de- 
sirable. A severe illness rendered it necessary to 
Mr. Finch himself, and it therefore took place without 
any unpleasantness. Mr. Heaton Aldam, who man- 
aged the farming department, was an able and 
pleasant man ; but he undertook his duties without 
calculating the difficulties of his new position. On his 

Practical Operations. 143 

own farm he was master, possessed ample resources, 
and ordered what had to be done in the certainty that 
it could be done, without demur or objection. He 
was out of place, therefore, where consultation was 
occasionally necessary, and where " ways and means " 
required to be discussed. Charles Frederick Green, 
the resident trustee, in a few months was called away, 
and settled in America. His practical training and 
general usefulness would have made his help of value, 
but he had to leave, and thus the management had to 
be re-arranged, with an improved 'knowledge of the 
requirements of the new colony. The three gentle- 
men named did not over-weight the establishment 
with expense, as they gave their services without 
charge of any kind beyond their board ; but as mere 
depositaries of authority, the work to be done did not 
need them. There was over-much of management, 
and, as there was not always agreement, this was felt 
to be an evil. 

At the Congress of 1841, held in Manchester, the 
difficulties at Queenwood began to be apparent, and 
though they were not at that time very formidable, it 
was evident that unless the financial resources of the 
society could be developed they would rapidly become 
greater. There existed in the community pressing 
need for an increase of members to carry on opera- 
tions that could not be postponed without loss. There 
was also a desire in the branches throughout the 
country to send additional residents, that the business 
of the establishment might be carried actively for- 
ward. But as the sending of each additional person 
involved a permanent increase in expenditure, it was 
felt by the more cautious that the pursuit of such a 

1 44 ^l/^> Times J and Labours of Robert Owen, 

policy would be ruinous, unless at the same time pro- 
vision could be made to permanently enlarge the 
income of the society. There was no branch of in- 
dustry on the estate that could bring any immediate 
return, and, therefore, whatever might be necessary for 
carrying on farming and building operations, as well as 
what was needed for the support of residents, had to be 
found by the non-resident members of the association. 
Up to that time loans could not be resortecV^to, if 
for no other reason, because among the members 
generally, lenders of considerable amounts could not 
be found. There were people in connection with the 
society who could lend, but they were not likely to 
do so while the members in the various branches had 
the power (by hurrying forward operations so as to 
overweight the establishment) to render the capital 
invested unprofitable. These persons, as matters 
stood during the early stages of the attempt, showed 
no disposition to come forward. Many ways were 
suggested of encouraging small investors by making 
the money they advanced available in certain forms 
that might meet their requirements. It was proposed 
that a certain portion of the money so advanced 
should be at call, while another portion should be 
subject to conditions of deferred payment.'. As many 
of those who subscribed funds never meant to reside 
at Queenwood, a system of mutual insurance was 
proposed, from which, at a certain time of life, annual 
payments were to be made. There were other sug- 
gestions, but obviously such plans were useless with- 
out some guarantee for success and profitable work- 
ing, and this was precisely what such an experiment 
could not offer. 

Practical Operations. 145 

If money was to be forthcoming, it was quite clear 
that those able and willing to lend must be consulted, 
and, as far as possible, their views adopted. Matters 
could not remain as they were in the early part of 
1 841, except at the risk of an immediate failure, and 
there were many who would have very much re- 
gretted such a result. Several of these were willing 
to advance money, but they were not disposed to do 
so without stipulating that they should in a certain 
way control its expenditure. Naturally, their first 
desire was to prevent the society, acting through its 
branches, from sending residents at will. For this 
purpose they formed themselves into a society called 
the " Home Colonisation Society," and by contribu- 
tions, principally taking the form of loans, got together 
large sums of money, and, as afterwards became 
known, received promises of other large sums, which 
were not kept when the money was required. Practi- 
cally, the " Home Colonisation Society " superseded 
the old society, by causing such alterations to be 
made in its constitution as reduced it to a subordinate 
position, in which it became a follower and helper 
with little or no power of initiation in anything that 
required the spending of money, or that involved the 
safety of ./hat was, or what might be, invested. 

The changes thus brought about, though many of 
them were necessary, all of them well-meant and 
made with the assent of the members of the society, 
had a deadening effect on the spirit of the most active 
and zealous. Enthusiasm was not needed, and, as a 
natural consequence, it began to disappear. Such 
variations were made in the laws as caused the will of 
the president and governor to be paramount in almost 


146 Lifc^ Tillies^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

everything connected with business. Robert Owen 
combined both offices in his own person, and as he 
had the common weakness of regarding those who 
agreed with him as the fittest to be trusted in the 
carrying out of his views, the soundness of judgment 
arising from a comparison of ideas was hardly to be 
expected, and, in many instances, was not to be 

Another important result of the proceedings re- 
ferred to, was the breaking up of the organised system 
of propaganiHsm that had been at work from the be- 
ginning. There were seven district missionaries, 
whose salaries, it was thought, would be better spent 
in assisting practical operations on the land, and 
within a year after the new system was brought into ' 
operation, their services were dispensed with. Most 
of them had rendered unpaid service, before they had 
imposed on them the duties of missionaries, and after 
their services in this capacity were no longer called 
for, they passed into the ranks, and again took on 
themselves their share of the volunteer work necessary 
for carrying on the operations of the society. An- 
other effect of this new policy was to diminish the 
value of the halls which had been erected in several of 
the large towns. Up to this time, these had been man- 
aged in the interest of the movement, and though not 
profitable as money speculations, they served the pur- 
^pose the shareholders had in view, being well em- 
ployed in the improvement of the people who attended 
them for instruction and amusement. When the 
members of these institutions slackened in their zeal, 
in consequence of the pure business action of the new 
management, attendance fell off ; and other means of 

Practical Operations, 147 

using the halls had to be resorted to for the purpose 
of preventing a serious loss. 

At this time trade was. so bad that the working 
people were suffering greatly, and although those who 
had joined Robert Owen's movement were not of the 
poorest — were, indeed, as a rule, the most provident 
— yet in times of bad trade all suffer, though naturally 
the improvident have to endure most. Whatever the 
cause, the attendance at the various institutions, 
slackened, and the enthusiasm the people felt wh( 
they themselves were the directors of their own 
periment, subsided to a considerable extent, leaving 
the management nearly altogether in the l?(ands of 
those who, as a Home Colonisation So><^iety, had 
taken on themselves the duty of furnishing the chief 
portion of the funds. 

The Congress of 1841 was heW in Manchester at 
the time when this change was being carried out. 
The reports of the various (iflegates were encourag- 
ing ; but several of thern/pointed out that the build- 
ing of halls in many hz^alities had so absorbed the 
means of members, t^t they were unable to subscribe 
as largely as they hacf^ previously done for aiding ex- 
periments on the land."^*Xhey were as much alive as 
ever to the importance of puslifngforward social re- 
form ; but it was difficult to raise "money among 
people suffering through want of employrii^t, and 
this fact furnished an additional reason why\sfich^vi;c- 
sources as could be commanded should be more" 
exclusively applied to operations on the land, seeing 
that these had been commenced, and could not be 
brought to a standstill. 

The Manchester Congress was marked by a spirit 



148 LifCy Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

of cheerful confidence, and it maybe added that at 
these Congresses the business was conducted without 
any view to outside effect. Such a thing would have 
been very difficult had there been any disposition to 
attempt it. The " family meetings," as they were 
called, which were regularly held in all the branches, 
kept the members thoroughly acquainted with the 
minutest details of their business, in consequence of 
which the delegates, who were as a rule active and 
telligent men, came to the annual consideration of 
thel'it- affairs with minds so informed in regard to the 
subjects with which they had to deal, that any attempt 
to impos^e on them, or on the public through them, 
would, haa Jt been contemplated, have been imprac- 
ticable. OutsiUe, matters were progressing as well as 
could be expected',^ and if nothing had required atten- 
tion beyond the inflhxencing of public opinion, the pro- 
spects of the movemertst at the time of the Congress 
of 1 84 1, would have le!%. little to be desired. The 
lecturing was carried on witft^reat activity. Eighteen 
missionaries and paid lecturers were constantly at 
work. In addition there wereNdiscussion classes in 
all directions, and a tract distribution so active that 
it was declared publicly at aXmeeting in Birmingham, 
of the Auxiliary^-Ctiurch of England Tract Society, 
that the Spcralists had distributed more tracts in that 
town i«a week than the Church party had circulated 

Notwithstanding this, many were already appre- 
hending trouble from the experiment on the land. 
Future progress, even in regard to propagandism, de- 
pended very much on its success, and it was every 
day becoming more clear that an experiment entered 

Practical Operations. 149 

on so hurriedly, would be a cause of much danger, 
and, unless saved by some fortunate set of circum- 
stances, likely enough to end in disastrous failure. At 
the Manchester Congress, Mr. James Rigby, who had 
been appointed deputy governor, reported as to the 
then condition of the estate ; and though his report 
was hopeful, it gave hints of disagreements and diffi- 
culties that, even though they might be overcome, 
were not encouraging. The inmates were dissatisfied, 
and they were written to, and asked to state frankly 
the causes of their dissatisfaction. In reply, they 
complained of the head farmer acting without proper 
control, and rendering his accounts irregularly. When 
asked their opinion of the new deputy governor, Mr. 
Rigby, they expressed approval of his kindness, and 
the general character of his policy, but more than 
hinted a want of faith in his infallibility. To a query 
as to the domestic arrangements, they complained 
that their bedrooms were too small and had no fire- 
places, so that during the winter months they had to be 
too much together in the common sitting-room. This, 
however, was but a temporary inconvenience, as the 
building they were in was not intended for their 
dwelling, and was only to be occupied while better 
buildings were being erected. They complained also 
that the cooking accommodation was defective, being 
simply what had been used in the old farmhouse, but 
of their food, which was the most important item, 
they had no complaint to make, as it consisted of a 
good variety of dishes, and was as a rule well-served. 
Neither had they much complaint to make on the 
score of their clothing, though they could have done 
with more ; they declared, however, that they did not 


I so Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

desire to press any claim that would interfere with 
the necessary expenditure \t\ seed and manure for the 
land. Indeed, all were disposed to do the best they 
could, for the purpose of overcoming the difficulties 
consequent upon the hurried commencement of a 
scheme which, before it was entered on, required care- 
ful and ample preparation. From the reports given 
in, it appeared that they had been working hard, and 
that everything connected with the land was in a 
thriving condition. The account given by the deputy 
governor of the manner in which they conducted and 
employed themselves during the week and on Sun- 
days, was interesting, and as it touched slightly on 
the Sabbath question it may be repeated in his own 
words. " On Sundays no more cooking is performed 
than cannot possibly be avoided, as on Saturday this 
operation is done for both Saturday and Sunday, so 
that Sunday may be as much as possible a day of 
rest Our people never hurt the religious feelings of 
their neighbours by not paying all the attention they 
are able in this respect, and the feelings of their 
neighbours have altered much in their favour." Indeed, 
Mr. Rigby himself had been proposed as churchwar- 
den, and would have accepted the position had his 
residence in the parish been long enough to qualify 

On a week day, " they rose at six o'clock, and went 
out to work before breakfast till eight or half-past. 
For breakfast there was milk, cocoa, bread and butter, 
salad, &c. They then pursued their labours until 
dinner-time. Dinner was served up in a good style, 
and generally consisted of puddings, bacon, beef, 
mutton, vegetables, with hare and rabbit occasionally, 

Practical Operations. 15 1 

and an hour was allowed for the meal. At five all 
came in from work, and having dressed and partaken 
of tea, either joined in some amusement or attended 
to study." 

In many respects the life at Queenwood was better 
than that of ordinary workers outside, and in some 
respects it was not so good. Had it included a sense 
of security, there can be no doubt it would have been 
greatly superior to the life led by our artizans in the 
large towns of the kingdom. As it was, there was a 
great desire to get there ; but the change from a 
crowded bustling town, to a neighbourhood which was 
comparatively a solitude, was trying to men whose 
previous habits had tended to unfit them for such a 
life. Upon the whole, however, the people there suited 
each other, and so far as agreement in association 
went, there was very little to complain of. Watch 
making and printing were introduced at an early 
stage of the experiment. In printing there was a 
good deal to be done in the society ; and the weekly 
journal, which was a large sixteen-paged paper, fur- 
nished, together with tracts and pamphlets, a fair start. 
But in every step taken there were many difficulties, 
every one of which, however, could have been over- 
come had there been ampler means at the disposal of 
the managing body. 


CMtiQC of polici?* 

It will be seen that what may be regarded as a fatal 
error was committed in commencing operations on 
the land before obtaining possession of the funds 
necessary to carry them out. Such changes as 
resulted from a better knowledge, and a wider ex- 
perience, might have been useful ; but changes made 
under the pressure of necessity, were likely to be 
mischievous, as they were almost sure to touch, at 
some point, the convenience or comfort of those con- 
cerned, and by so doing to beget differences of 
opinion and mutual opposition. In this way the 
passing of the authority, that had up to this time 
belonged to the members of the association, into the 
hands of those who composed the " Home Colonisa- 
tion Society," though it produced no positive dis- 
satisfaction, furnished ground of complaint to a small 
minority. These indulged in unfriendly criticism, 
which led, for the first time, to the development of a 
party spirit, and occasioned disagreements which 
might have been avoided, if a more sober view of 
the situation and its necessities had continued to be 

During 1842 and the first half of 1843, building 
and farming operations were carried on very briskly. 

Change of Policy. 153 

Two farms, called the Great and Little Bently Farms, 
were added to the land already held, and were entered 
on under a long lease. The foundation stone of a 
very handsome structure, estimated to cost a large 
sum of money, had been laid, and building operations 
were commenced. The Home Colonisation Society 
having the controlling power in their hands, found 
funds to carry on these new operations, and, as the 
progress made was a source of much satisfaction, 
very little fault was found with what was being done, 
and no questions were pressed that those in power 
were indisposed to answer. In the branches, among 
the members, who belonged nearly altogether to the 
working classes, the buildings in course of erection 
were not approved of They said that in themselves, 
and in the accommodation they offered, they were 
far beyond what working people were used to, or 
desired ; and if instead of what appeared to them a 
palace, comfortable cottage houses were built, the 
expense would be less, and the comfort greater. On 
the other side, it was urged that although the 
expense per head might be more, the extra con- 
venience would be such that, after a moderate period, 
the superior buildings would be found in many ways 
more economical ; also that the habits of the 
residents would gradually alter. Expressions of 
dissatisfaction were also heard in the branches, 
among certain of the members, and might be con- 
sidered as purely local. In the management there 
was no difference of opinion. The report of the 
central board to the Congress held in 1842, on the 
Queenwood estate, says : — 

" You will have to witness during some days the 

1 54 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen. 

extent of these operations, whereby you will, no 
doubt, come to the conclusion that they must be 
entirely under the direction and superintendence of 
one controlling mind. It will become equally obvious 
that this mind must be enabled to comprehend the 
whole subject, or confusion will soon arise. And not 
only must the governor comprehend his plans, but he 
must be assisted in carrying them into effect, even to 
the minutest detail, by the best parties that can be 
selected, in whom he has confidence. This will be 
the great means of future success or failure. If 
dissension, even the most trifling, can arise as to how 
our objects are to be effected, the time has not come 
when they can be carried out. To the board it 
appears impossible — and they speak with consider- 
able experience on the matter — that the slightest 
interruption can be permitted to the decision of 
the governor, and it will be for the Congress seriously 
to consider how far they coincide in this opinion, and 
to make their regulations accordingly. It will be 
requisite now, in the early stages of community 
arrangements, that all should clearly understand the 
terms on which they are admitted, and where the 
authority is vested." 

The meaning of this cannot be mistaken. The 
governor's orders were not in any way to be disputed, 
and though this discipline of submission was meant 
honestly in the interest of those on whom it was 
imposed, it was nevertheless certain that the position 
of people dwelling in such an establishment might be 
made unbearable, should the governor lack either 
equity of spirit or soundness of judgment in regulat- 
ing the affairs placed under his control The 

Change of Policy. i S 5 

experiment was not altogether satisfactory. The 
personal disagreements and disputes were few, the 
people having lived together in peace and friendli- 
ness, but the blunders made in general management 
were sometimes serious, and might have been pre- 
vented if the right of free discussion had been more 
fully permitted.^ 

Much may be said in favour of so much authority 
as may be necessary to control factious opposition ; 
but authority itself has a tendency to become factious, 
and to be in such circumstances more dangerous than 
opposition. The evils of arbitrary power, and those 
of factious resistance, when balanced, tend to create 
a belief that free discussion, with all its drawbacks, is 
very much to be preferred to an enforced silence that 
can neither approve nor condemn. For good or for 
evil the power the central board asked for was 
granted, and the proceedings in Hampshire went 
vigorously forward. A large amount of money was 
expended, much the greater part of which was fur- 
nished by the members of the central board them- 
selves, in their character as representatives of the 
" Home Colonisation Society." 

At the 1842 Congress, everything was done in 
regard to the estate in Hampshire without any 
approach to interference, either by the residents at 
Queenwood, or the members of the general society ; 
yet though matters looked encouraging in May, 
when the regular yearly Congress met, three months 
after, the central board was compelled to call a special 

1 The writer was almost alone, amongst the leading members 
of the society, in opposition to this plan of management from 
the beginning. 

1 56 Life, Tivtes, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

Congress, for the purpose of considering the position 
of the society ; the whole thing having been brought 
as nearly as possible to a standstill. It may be 
mentioned that the crisis which had then arrived, 
and with which the special Congress called in London 
in August 1842, had to deal, was not brought about 
by unreasonable, extravagant, or foolish conduct on 
the part of the people at Queenwood. The plans on 
which the place was conducted, the cost of carrying 
out these plans, and the means of defraying it, rested 
entirely with the central board, acting in conjunction 
with the " Home Colonisation Society." 

It is more than likely that the colony in Hampshire 
would have come to a standstill if the society had 
been left to itself. The work undertaken, however 
economically conducted, was beyond the means at 
the disposal of the society. To erect buildings for 
farming, for schools, for workshops in various indus- 
tries, and to find capital to carry on these industries, 
meant an enormous expenditure ; and as every branch 
of business was, at its commencement, a mere experi- 
ment, though one might succeed, another might not, 
and it is plain that the probabilities were on the side 
of failure. 

An outlay was incurred which, thpugh perhaps not 
extravagant for the work which had to be executed, 
was quite out of proportion to the capital at command, 
or to any amount of capital that could be reasonably 
expected. Mr. Owen was at this time surrounded and 
assisted by men as sanguine as himself, who shared 
to the full his hopes and expectations. They were as 
disinterested and sincere as men could be, and did not 
expect from others more than they were themselves 

Change of Policy, 157 

prepared to do. Those who had capital advanced it 
liberally, but when they had gone as far as they could, 
those upon whose sympathy and assistance reliance 
had been placed, did not fulfil the expectations which 
had been entertained. When, therefore, the special 
Congress was called in August, 1842, the confession 
had to be made that there were not funds wherewith 
to meet the current expenses. Mr. William Galpin, 
General Secretary, a man of high honour and strict 
integrity, who possessed an amount of quiet deter- 
mination that usually carried him over difficulties 
before which most men would have given way, ex- 
plained the position with the utmost frankness. He 
said : — 

" At the Congress held in May last, the proceedings 
of the president and the central board, for the past 
year, had given such general satisfaction that the con- 
fidence before reposed in them was carried to an 
extent greater, perhaps, than was ever previously 
placed in any officers of a public body. The position 
we then occupied, and the unanimity with which the 
various measures were passed, led me to believe that 
we should continue to progress, without any material 
check, to the accomplishment of all those great 
objects for which we are associated. This belief still 
exists to a great degree, but I must confess that I 
have felt most strongly the unsoundness of our posi- 
tion in being even momentarily deficient in the funds 
to meet our liabilities, inasmuch as all the arrange- 
ments were based on the understanding that such a 
deficiency should never exist, and I most fully deter- 
mined on being a party to no other." 

After a few more paragraphs, he added : — 

IS8 Life, Times y and Labours of Robert Owen. 

"The temporary inconvenience now felt has been 
brought on by the operations being extended beyond 
the means advanced to carry them forward, and it 
will be for you to ascertain in what manner this has 
been done, and whether it is calculated to effect more 
permanent advantage to the cause we are engaged in 
than would have resulted from an adherence to the 
arrangements previously agreed on." 

With regard to the expenditure that had been in- 
curred it was, Mr. Galpin said, made by order of the 
governor ; but though this might be true, it did not 
entirely excuse the men in conjunction with whom he 
acted. In truth, so far as miscalculation led to diffi- 
culties in this case, no one of those concerned was 
more to blame than the rest. They were all over- 
sanguine, and instead of checking each other by pru- 
dent calculation or business-like protest, they encour- 
aged each other by mutual enthusiasm. This, though 
a serious error, was not fatal ; and in proof of the 
good faith of the men who committed it, not one of 
them for an instant incurred suspicion in respect of 
anything that had been advised or executed. At this 
special Congress there was nothing called in question 
beyond the business ability of the men who had been 
appointed at the Congress of 1841, in accordance with 
the new system, and what the special Congress had to 
do was to appoint successors to the board, and decide 
on plans for future management. This was done 
w^ithout any kind of disagreement or personal un- 
friendliness between those concerned. There was 
much explanation and some sharp enough criticism, 
but at the close of the discussion a long resolution was 
passed unanimously declaring : — 

Change of Policy, 159 

" That this Congress, havhig heard the address of the 
governor of Harmony and explanations from members 
of the central board, and examined the accounts and 
liabilities of the society, Resolved, — That in the 
opinion of the Congress, the present financial condition 
of the establishment in Hampshire has mainly arisen 
from the too great confidence of the governor in the 
disposition of capitalists, not immediately connected 
with the society, to advance capital for its purposes 
when practical operations had been advanced to a 
certain stage, which confidence induced him to press 
forward practical operations in the said establishment 
at a rate which exceeded the actual income and avail- 
able funds of the society. And the Congress further 
considers that this result has been aided by the im- 
plicit and unbounded faith reposed in the late gover- 
nor by the principal officers of the society, which pre- 
vented them from exercising that judicious and 
prudent control over the expenditure of the funds 
which their uniform business-like and satisfactory con- 
duct in other respects shows that, under other circum- 
stances and but for such confidence, they would have 
felt it to be their duty to exercise. This Congress, 
however, after mature consideration, fully exonerates 
all the parties concerned from the imputation of any 
intentional error in policy or practice with reference 
to these operations, and declares its firm belief that 
every step they have taken has been dictated by a 
sincere desire to benefit the society, and accelerate the 
realisation of its principles. The Congress further 
expresses its fullest conviction that the temporary 
difficulties arising from too sanguine hopes and im- 
plicit confidence may be easily removed by a united 

i6o Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

and energetic effort on the part of the members and 
friends of the society to give full effect and profitable 
employment to the extended arrangements and 
greatly improved capabilities of the establishment; 
the explanations which have been given fully satisfy- 
ing the Congress that the principal officers of the 
society perceive the error that has been committed, 
and that the experience thus gained will prevent a 
similar course from being pursued by their successors.'* 

It would be wrong to infer from what has been 
stated that there was any revolt against Robert Owen 
on the part of his followers. He and those who had 
been acting with him made a very serious blunder, and 
the gravity of this was understood. The necessity of 
changing the policy of the society was seen by all 
parties, and to change the policy it was necessary 
there should be a change of men. Robert Owen and 
his friends of the " Home Colonisation Society " felt 
this. They had advanced over ;^i4,ooo for the 
purpose of forwarding the operations at Queenwood, 
and now that they were compelled to call a special 
Congress, in consequence of the difficulties that had 
arisen, it was found that, in advancing this large sum, 
they had exacted no security, and in handing their 
power back again they asked for no terms beyond 
such as the future condition of the concern might 

When the new men were appointed to carry out the 
new policy, the retiring officers did not withdraw 
themselves so long as they could furnish information 
or advice, and in many ways the plans that had been 
set on foot to make the establishment remunerative 
were pursued to the end. In a carefully-written ad- 

Change of Policy, i6i 

dress, Robert Owen advised that the farms and 
gardens should be brought into the highest state of 
cultivation, and that the hall and other buildings 
should be completed and furnished, so as to provide 
accommodation for a number of well-to-do friends as 
paying boarders. There would have been no lack of 
these, as it was a desirable place of residence, and 
many eligible persons were ready to go there when 
suitable accommodation should be provided. 

At the special Congress a delegate from Queen- 
wood was present — Mr. William Sprague, who lived 
there as saddler and harness-maker. He brought 
with him instructions from the residents, and an ex- 
pression of opinion in regard to the work in which 
they were engaged. He said, " They had met to 
consider the situation, and to express their opinions 
in connection with it. What the resident members 
asked for by resolution was a share in the government 
of the establishment." On discussion by the members 
of the Congress, however, it was feared that such an 
arrangement might lead to inconvenient interferences 
with the management, and, in the end, it was 
negatived : but a strong desire was at the same time 
expressed by the delegates present, that in everything 
seriously affecting them they should be consulted 
Inside the establishment a very good feeling prevailed. 
Mr. Sprague said, " That with reference to the feelings 
of the members on recent occurrences, at first con- 
siderable consternation was created, but, subsequently, 
explanations had restored confidence, and the 
strongest determination now existed to do all in their 
power to aid the success of the establishment. They 
hoped that any past occurrences would not be reverted 

VOL. u L 

1 62 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

to by the Congress except for the purpose of future 

New officers were appointed, plans of action were 
settled, a budget drawn up, and the Congress 
separated without anger or ill-will, in consequence of 
what had happened, Mr. Finch, the new governor, 
declaring that in whatever he might do, he would seek 
the advice of the gentlemen who had just retired from 
office. It is needless to reproduce here the many un- 
friendly statements made by the press on these 
proceedings. There was never the least attempt to 
make a secret of anything connected with the situa- 
tion. Critics might have informed themselves very 
accurately, at any time, of all that was done. But 
instead of taking the trouble to find out the actual 
condition of things, the newspapers sent abroad the 
wildest charges against all concerned with the Hamp- 
shire experiment. The whole thing, according to the 
press, had broken down disgracefully and dishonestly, 
while Robert Owen and those who acted with him 
were denounced, and hunted by their deluded and 
infuriated dupes. So far was this from the fact, that 
the new president, in his first address to the members 
of the society, made the following remarks : — 

" In commencing the administration of your afifairs, 
I must declare to you that I consider the society in a 
better position than it has ever yet been placed in. 
It IS true that some temporary inconvenience has 
arisen from the energy and perseverance with which 
our venerable founder, the late governor, has pressed 
forward the g^and and glorious objects which are ever 
present to his mind ; but the extremely generous 
manner in which those friends who advanced the 

Change of Policy, 163 

funds which have been expended within the last 
twelve months have met the society on this occasion 
has given the Congress the firm assurance, that with 
anything approaching to zeal on your parts it will 
speedily be found that the position we occupy is a 
most advantageous one." 

' This statement was true, but the danger at Queen- 
wood did not lie in the temporary embarrassment, to 
deal with which the special Congress was called. It was 
far deeper than this, and even though every incon- 
venience had been effectually removed, the danger, 
though postponed, could not have been prevented. 
It must not be forgotten that the purpose of the 
experiment was to discover whether labour on the 
land, labour in the workshop, labour in the school, and 
such labour in management and government as might 
be needed, could be so united, and rewards so 
distributed, as to prevent excessive wealth and 
excessive poverty existing side by side as a social 
necessity. Successful farming and gardening, or a 
successful school and boarding establishment, or any 
other kind of success outside this, would not have 
solved the problem. It is a mistake to suppose that 
the form of government made any part of the danger. 
This was simply a trial for the purpose of discovering 
how best to carry on a difficult and special work, and 
was adopted and abandoned without creating hostile 
divisions among the members of the society. At the 
special Congress, one or two men objected to the 
form of government, and used strong expressions in 
reference to it, but such language was utterly dis- 
regarded by the body of the delegates. Mr. Galpin 
spoke out of a very intimate acquaintance with the 

164 tiif^y Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

working of the establishment and the general condi- 
tion of the society, when he said, in closing the debate 
on the question of government : — 

" As to the unity form of government, the general 
alterations made in the laws at last Congress em- 
bodied entirely his own views as to what was essential 
to good government. One thing,^ however, must be 
understood, every member must now know what 
measures the executive had in contemplation. This 
must be known throughout the society. None but 
ordinary operations should proceed unless they were 
first published in the New Moral World, Their pre- 
sent liabilities must be speedily and entirely got rid 
of, and no additional ones contracted. The errors 
that had been committed were financial ones, and in 
future the amount of funds should always be clearly 
known by all the members, that their confidence might 
be obtained." 

In fact, all felt that too much had been undertaken 
considering the means at the command of the society. 
The work could not be brought to a standstill with- 
out serious loss, nor could any other be entered on 
without additional capital to an amount beyond their 
.power to obtain. The blunder committed could not 
be rectified, but notwithstanding this the work 
went on. 

Alexander Somerville, who acted as an agent of 
the Anti-Corn-Law League, and who wrote, in 1842, a 
series of very interesting letters from the farming dis- 
tricts in the Morning Chronicle^ visited the Queen- 
wood establishment, and gave a very full account of 
what he witnessed there. 

** Though," he remarks, "I think the Socialists were 

Change of Policy, 165 

foolish to waste three or four years of their time and 
;£" 30,000^ or ;6^3S,ooo of their money in other works 
than the improvement of the land, they now have 
such works, and they now are improving the land. 
And if there are any of the elements of Socialism 
dangerous to our high land-owners and our venerable 
institutions, let them be defeated by stepping in front 
of the Socialists with the spade and the plough, giving 
to each labourer an implement and his wages, show- 
ing him what can be done without being a Socialist. 
Though there may be fundamental errors in their 
system, and though much has been said against them, 
this community, holding one thousand acres of land, 
giving employment and wages, and reaping profits 
more liberally than other land-holders around, are not 
to be despised. And, moreover, it is not to be over- 
looked that, while they refrain from proselytising by 
lecturing to the neighbourhood around, they are 
spreading their influence by their industrial schools. 
They offer to take, and to some extent have already 
taken, pupils from all parts of the country to be 
brought forward in every department of useful know- 
ledge now taught in the best schools, which will be 
combined with practical as well as theoretic instruc- 
tion in the arts and sciences; besides an infant school, 
presided over by a lady of great experience and 
acknowledged talent in this department, whose atten- 
tion will be mainly directed to the development of 
the physical powers of the children, the inculcation of 
good habits, the manners and dispositions, and the 
formation of correct moral feelings. As their educa- 

^ The amount spent was ;£3o,ooo, only one half of which was 
laid out in buildings. 

1 66 Life^ Times ^ aiid Labours of Robert Owen, 

tional prospectus states, they have an elementary 
school for children between seven and fourteen years, 
and also a polytechnic school for the instruction of 
youth from the age of fourteen years and upwards in 
the theory and practice of agriculture and gardening, 
and the arts connected therewith, and in various other 
arts and trades carried on within the establishment. 
* The farms,' he continues , * are managed by a 
bailiff and assistants of great practical experience, 
and comprise many varieties of soil and surface. A 
very extensive and well-arranged garden is being laid 
out and cultivated, under the direction of an able 
superintendent, and the other departments of art and 
manufacture are under the management of persons of 
acknowledged skill.* '* ^ 

Mr. Somerville adds : 

"The people in the neighbourhood dreaded them 
when they came at first, but now they respect them. 
They are bringing from all parts of the kingdom the 
best improved implements and methods of working ; 
the scattered facts of well-authenticated experiments 
they are collecting from all the improved agricultural 
districts and introducing them to a part of the king- 
dom eminently defective, and in those respects 
neglected. Amid a poor population they are creat- 
ing and enjoying wealth; amid an ignorant population 
they are dispensing education ; amid an imperfectly 
employed population they are spreading employment ; 
amid a population not remarkable for correct moral 
conduct they are showing themselves as an example 
which compels the respect of all who know them, and 
who at first distrusted them." 

^ Morning Chronicle^ Dec. 23rd, 1842. 

Change of Policy. 167 

The industries carried on were returning a profit, 
and there was nothing to prevent the undertaking 
being prosperously continued, had not the extent of 
the operations to which they were committed, together 
with the insufficient means at their disposal, hung 
heavily on those concerned in it. 

The aim was to set an example, in the following of 
which the condition of the people might be improved, 
by means of education, well-directed employment, 
and equity in distribution. The task was difficult, 
the sacrifice considerable, and it is hard to see why 
those who undertook it should have been subjected 
to misrepresentation and abuse. 


Bn& of tbe (Slueenwoo& Bjpetiment 

Matters went on after the change had taken place 
much as they had done before the special Congress 
was held, except that no new extension was made, 
nor any new obligations incurred. The work already 
entered on could not be abandoned, though the 
strictest economy, wherever it could be usefully 
applied, was enforced. Beyond this, existing obliga- 
tions were successfully grappled with. Nothing that 
could be done to overcome existing difficulties, and to 
bring out a satisfactory result in the end, was left 

In the April of the following year, Mr. Finch, whose 
health was feeble, decided to resign the presidency of 
the association, and the address in which he made his 
intention known, published before the meeting of the 
May Congress, explained the position of the society's 
affairs at that time. 

** The special Congress of our association, called by 
the late Central Board, in July last, and held in John 
Street Institution, London, having by unanimous vote 
called upon me to take the office of president of the 
association, and in conjunction with an excellent and 
long-tried friend of the cause, the situation also of 

Misrepresentations. 169 

governor of Harmony, as the best - means of 
removing difficulties which had unexpectedly occurred: 
animated with a love of our divine principles, a 
determination to use our best endeavours to bring 
them into practice, and fully relying on the integrity, 
zeal, and persevering support of the members and 
friends of the society, we cheerfully accepted the 
invitation, went down to Harmony, and devoted 
ourselves to the work assigned to us. I have now the 
pleasure of stating to our friends, that though very 
much still remains to be done before Harmony is 
complete, the objects for which we were chosen have 
been accomplished. All the most pressing engage- 
ments of the society have been discharged in full, the 
buildings are nearly finished, many improvements in 
the farms and gardens have been made, the schools 
have commenced, proper teachers have been engaged, 
a considerable number of pupils and boarders have 
arrived, more pupils are promised ; and from these a 
large revenue is already realised, which, with the 
surplus produce of the estate, there is every reason to 
believe will make this interesting experiment self- 
supporting before the end of the present year. In the 
meanwhile public opinion has greatly changed in our 
favour ; the calumnies and falsehoods circulated 
respecting us have been exposed, the excellence of 
our system is extremely appreciated, and the receipt 
of nearly ;6'5,ooo since the Congress of July, is the 
most convincing proof that confidence in the society 
is undiminished." 

The question as to whether the society could have 
got over its difficulties, if it had pursued the policy 
acted on by Mr. Finch, need not now be discussed. 

170 Life^ Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

When the Congress of May, 1843, met at Queen wood, 
its first business was to elect a president, and Robert 
Owen was unanimously chosen to act in that capacity 
during its sittings. The recommendations of the 
central board were sufficiently clear, but it will be 
seen that the means of carrying them out were not 
absolutely at the command of the society's officers. 
The report says : — 

" In proportion as funds are placed at their disposal, 
after the completion of the works already commenced, 
the board will recommend the occupation by the 
society of the additional estates of Rosehill and Great 
Bently, and that the cultivation of the whole be carried 
to the highest pitch that agricultural science willpermit. 
They also recommend that the garden be proceeded 
with as rapidly as possible, as it will be a great means 
of support and occupation for the members and 
pupils, and a source of attraction to all who visit the 
establishment. They next advise that the schools be 
placed in the best possible state of organisation, and 
that the education be made practical, in accordance 
with the principles of the system, to the greatest 
possible extent. That a printing press be established 
to print the general works and tracts of the society, 
and, as early as possible, the New Moral World, 
That the present trades carried on in the establish- 
ment be extended, where desirable, and that additional 
trades be introduced. That machinery be brought, 
wherever practicable, to the aid of human labour, and 
that profitable manufactures be introduced in the order 
of their utility. The board is convinced that the great 
means of procuring a profitable return will be derived 
from the society possessing the most superior skill 

Misrepresentations. 171 

and intelligence in performing all the operations they 

The advice given here, however good, does not 
positively indicate a policy. It is to be followed if 
funds are forthcoming, but nothing is said as to what 
shall be done should the funds not be obtained. The 
original intention having been to combine labour in 
the workshop and on the land, and to unite with this 
scholastic instruction, it could not be satisfactory to 
those who had made this their ideal, and who had 
subscribed for the purpose of realising it, to see 
success aimed at by establishing boarding-houses. 
This was possibly the best thing that could be done 
in the circumstances, and it is not unlikely, that by 
trusting to this under the pressure that had arisen, 
success might have been in the end attained ; but to 
patiently labour on in the expectation that such would 
be the case required much self-denial, and much of 
that deferred hope which maketh the heart sick. 
There was, for a time, a mitigation of the money 
pressure, activity in pushing forward improvements, 
and apparent ground for a growing confidence ; but 
the progress which was made was of a nature to 
suggest, at every step, questions as to whether this 
was the kind of success originally aimed at. There 
were not wanting men throughout the society who 
encouraged a feeling of dissatisfaction, and although 
a determined struggle against this feeling took place, 
it continued to spread, so that in a little time it 
became clear it would produce most undesirable 
results, and that the unity so much to be wished for 
was in danger of being destroyed. A distinct party 
grew into existence, and several persons, from the best 

172 Life^ Times^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

motives, connected themselves with it as leaders and 
supporters. Widely different views were taken, those 
in power believing that the first thing to be aimed 
at was success, if not by the most preferable means, 
by those that lay nearest The objectors, on the 
other hand, believed that if the establishment were 
managed in accordance with the original intention, 
by increasing the number of residents and finding 
work for them, and by limiting the labourers or 
dispensing with them altogether, so as to provide 
more accommodation for resident members, the 
necessary funds would be found. 

At the Congress of 1844, such alterations were 
made in the laws of the society and the selection of 
its officers as were found necessary to ensure the 
carrying out of the new policy. Mr. George Simpson 
of Manchester became general secretary, and Mr. 
John Buxton, of the same city, president Mr. 
Simpson was a man of very good ability as an 
accountant, and of high character. Mr. Buxton was 
a man of good intention, and beyond this little could be 

Had both, however, possessed the best possible 
qualifications, they would have found the plans they 
undertook to carry out utterly impracticable. In 
such an experiment it is necessary not only that the 
principle should be sound, but also that there should 
be the utmost confidence placed in the man at the 
head of it. Robert Owen and the friends who worked 
with him, were known and respected all over the 
country in connection with the Socialist- movement, 
while Mr. Simpson and Mr. Buxton, though of good 
local repute, were not known throughout the society, 

Misrepresentations. 173 

and, therefore, did not obtain so general a support 
from the members. 

Besides, it became very evident to those acquainted 
with the actual condition of things, that any attempt 
to increase the expenditure must soon bring the 
whole thing to a standstill. Apprehensions were 
aroused among the boarders and the parents of the 
children, who were now a source of fair revenue to the 
schools. The prospect which thus disclosed itself of 
an increased expenditure and a decreased revenue be- 
came alarming. Outside enthusiasm did not fulfil the 
expectations of those who trusted in it, and ultimately 
the experiment was brought to an end. The value of 
the property as security for the liabilities began to 
diminish. To stop this the trustees took action, and 
such distribution of the assets was made as left all 
connected with the proceedings without any kind of 
imputation on their personal honour. There was 
much difference of opinion, some recriminatory 
argument and opposition; butduring the proceedings by 
which the estate was wound up, no charge or scandal 
ever came out of this in reference to any one con- 

I have endeavoured to explain what I take to be 
the principal reasons why the experiment at Queen- 
wood failed, though many minor defects of policy may 
have contributed. Many people rejoiced at the defeat. 
Mr. Booth, in his book " Robert Owen,*' seeks to 
account for the ill-will manifested towards the society 
and those belonging to it, by saying that, *'The 
Socialists certainly advanced their views in the most 
offensive manner, and the leaders of the movement 
courted controversy." This is the reverse of the truth. 


174 ^(/^> Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

Everything possible was done to prevent the giving of 
needless offence, and in proof of this as much might 
be produced from the pages of the New Moral World 
as would fill a volume. That harsh and offensive 
expressions were sometimes used is certain, but it 
should be remembered, in extenuation, that there 
were many speakers and much provocation, and it is a 
fact that offensive language was uniformly condemned. 
The same writer says that " the ' Book of the New 
Moral World,' in which Mr. Owen had fully explained 
the new system, was adopted as a sacred writing, and 
read in the services of the Church ; '* the fact being 
that a belief in Mr. Owen's writings was authoritatively 
declared unnecessary, as will be seen from the 
correspondence given in connection with the Edinburgh 
charter. Mr. Booth, at page 194, also quotes a number 
of exceedingly offensive expressions, as used by 
Robert Owen and his followers in speaking of the 
Christian religion ; and in a footnote refers his readers 
to vol. 4, page 239, of the New Moral World, Having 
referred to the volume and page given, I can say that 
it contains not a single word to justify Mr. Booth's 
charge. The page is occupied by a long letter ex- 
tracted from the Coventry Standard^ in which the 
writer attempts to fasten the growth of unbelief on 
the influence of mechanics' institutions. 

It is a pity that a writer like Mr. Booth, who seems 
to be a zealous professing Christian, should have 
sought the promotion of any good object by circulating 
groundless charges, conscious, as he must have been, 
that such charges were personally injurious to those 
against whom they were made. There cannot be any 
doubt that much of the rejoicing over the Queenwood 

Misrepresentations, 1 7 5 

failure was the result of a false conception of Robert 
Owen and his associates, as well as of the work in 
which they had engaged ; and while on this subject, 
it may not be inappropriate, before concluding the 
present chapiter, to refer to certain misguiding state- 
ments which occur in the books of those who have 
dealt with Owen and his proceedings. I do not pro- 
pose to examine the many errors to be found in the 
several works treating of the labours of Robert Owen; 
but in some of the cases where these errors are unjust 
to the character of Owen, or tend to lower the credit 
of the movement he originated and led, a few words of 
correction cannot be considered out of place. 

The statements made by Mr. Booth nearly always 
tend to degrade Owen both as a thinker and a man 
of business, while his friends and followers are spoken 
of as if they were in the constant habit of advocating 
every kind of extreme thing in the most offensive 
manner. Nothing can be more reprehensible than 
this method of dealing with public men and public 
movements, than to select odd passages from the 
speeches of extreme or indiscreet men in proof of such 
statements. Mr. Booth, however, goes beyond this, 
in dealing with the things which he attributes to Owen 
and his adherents. I have followed him in his refer- 
ences to the documents from which he professes to 
quote, and have so frequently found his assertions to 
be without foundation, that I have come to the con- 
clusion he made them in the belief that no one would 
take the trouble to test his accuracy. Among other 
things, he says of the Socialists that they " never lost 
an opportunity of outraging the feelings of Christians." 
Nothing can be further from the truth, as every reason* 


176 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen, 

able affort was madeto avoid giving offence to all menof 
honest conviction. At page 199, Mr. Booth gives the 
following extracts from a lecturedelivered against Owen 
and his system by Mr. Giles, a Baptist minister at 
Leeds ; observing that the reverend gentleman was 
remarkable for much energy of thought and expres- 
sion. " Socialism was a union of all sects but the 
worshippers of God, and all practices but those of 
charity and virtue." Of the Socialists* paper, the 
same gentleman remarked that it " offered a way to 
perfect happiness by blending the blasphemy of the 
atheist with the sensuality of the brute." This lan- 
guage is certainly as energetic as it is untrue and libellous. 
Yet this is a fair example of the accusations which 
were brought against Owen. Because he denied that 
punishment was an effectual method of dealing with 
crime, where, through a want of education, there ex- 
isted so much ignorance and brutality, it was said 
that his design was to remove all obstacles to indi- 
vidual vice and a general corruption of morals. The 
wild absurdity of this did not carry it outside the 
region of belief. Reiteration amounted to proof, and 
hence a man of unblemished character, seeking the 
promotion of justice, had to bear through life the 
heaviest weight that unscrupulousness of accusation 
could lay on him. 

His ideas on the marriage question were dealt with 
in the same spirit, but Mr. Sargant puts this matter in 
its true light when he tells us that Owen's object " was 
not to abolish marriage, but to improve and render it 
a more effective means of promoting happiness and 
virtue," and it goes on to say that " he demanded less 
than Milton and Luther would have granted him; 

Misrepresentations. 1 7 7 

that his aim was by no means to lessen conjugal 
fidelity or the permanence of marriage, but to promote 
to the greatest possible extent true purity, delicacy, 
virtue, and happiness." He desired to see marriage a 
civil contract, accompanied by a law by which divorce, 
under wise arrangements, and on principles of common 
sense, might be obtained equally for the poor as well 
as for the rich. 

In justifying the Bishop of Exeter's attack on 
Owen, Mr. Booth says ! — " It is not in the interest of 
truth that each noisy prophet should strengthen the 
number of his adherents from the ignorant who are 
attracted by his violence. And the Bishop of Exeter, 
and those who thought with him, had exceptional 
cause for anxiety. A dangerous heresy was abroad 
that might entail misfortune to which no limits could 
be assigned ; and if, as they well knew, it is no longer 
possible to maintain truth by law, they might at least 
claim for the majority of the nation an exemption 
from the outrageous blasphemy of reckless men ; 
they might, with perfect justice, insist that the propa- 
ganda should be carried on with a due regard to the 
feelings of respect and awe with which those who are 
most entitled to consideration are accustomed to 
contemplate the solemn mystery that hangs around 
the destiny of man.'* 

I have already described the part played by Robert 

Owen, and by those who acted with him, at the time 

referred to ; and I repeat that neither he nor they 

ever addressed the people in language such as that 

indicated by Mr. Booth ; that they never attracted or 

sought to inflame the passions of the ignorant by 

their violence ; but, on the contrary, did all in their 
VOL. 11. M 

178 LifCy Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

power, during a period of dangerous popular excite- 
ment, to prevent violence of whatever kind. It is not 
very easy to exonerate Mr. Booth from intentional 
misleading; but whether he erred intentionally or 
otherwise, the charges he makes are as unfounded as 
they are calumnious. 

Mr. Sargant, who has written his work, " Robert 
Owen, and his Philosophy," in a fairer spirit, commits 
serious mistakes in speaking of Owen's character. 
He insists strongly on his " egotism," " vanity," 
" conceit," or whatever else an offensive self-assertion 
may be called ; 'and this charge is supported by 
reference to the undue importance he is said to have 
attached to the work in which he was engaged. But 
even if this implication be true, did that to which it 
has reference really arise from any disposition on his 
part to underrate other men, and the efforts with 
which their lives were connected, as compared with 
himself; or from the consequence he attached to the 
work of human improvement which the condition of 
the people rendered so necessary? His behaviour 
and speech, in his intercourse with others, was con- 
siderate almost to a fault. His deportment was as 
unassuming as it was amiable. He seemed never to 
consider anybody below him, so that his bearing had 
in it neither the reserve nor the arrogance of patron- 
age ; and very often those who were least in agree- 
ment with him in opinion were attracted by the 
kindliness of his manner. Mr. Sargant also speaks 
of Owen's drawbacks as a self-instructed man, and 
condemns the slight respect which, he tells us, Owen 
had for the higher culture of educated men. This is 
certainly a mistake Owen frequently censured what 

Misrepresentations, 179 

he called "learned ignorance," and we have the 
authority of Milton for saying that " though a linguist 
should pride himself to have all the tongues that 
Babel cleft the world into, yet if he have not studied 
the solid things in them, as well as the words and 
lexicons, he were nothing so much to be esteemed a 
learned man, as any yeoman or tradesman com- 
petently wise in his mother dialect only." No one 
had a higher esteem than Owen for true culture, 
which he regarded as embracing among other things, 
the knowledge which enabled its possessor to be of 
practical service to the living world round about him ; 
and as allied to a wisdom that had nothing in 
common with the mere vanity of scholarship. I 
acknowledge very willingly the number of kind and 
just things Mr. Sargant has said of Owen ; but the 
charge of undervaluing the importance of education 
can hardly, with any justice, be brought against the 
man who considered the education of the whole 
people the truest foundation for national morality, 
and surest means to a safe and steady national pro- 
gress. When, in addition, we are told that the 
opposition with which Owen and his fellows met was 
caused by their own ofifensiveness and by their habit 
of giving insulting expression to outrageous opinions, 
this statement may be met with an unhesitating con- 
tradiction. The more correct explanation of the 
opposition alluded to, lies in the fact that people, as 
a rule, object to have their opinions, their prejudices, 
or their interests interfered with, even in the most 
gentle and considerate manner. Owen's movement 
alarmed many persons of very honest and sincere 
convictions ; also many with strong prejudices, and 

i8o Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, 

others whose fears sprang from what they believed to 
be an attack on their interests. To admit this is 
simply to recognise facts which have been developed 
in every stage of the world^s progress, and is therefore 
no special reproach either to the men who opposed, 
or the men who led the agitation. It is true that 
zealots, in whatever cause, have usually found it 
difficult to act temperately towards those who oppose 
them, or to at all times pay the most scrupulous 
respect to the opinions of others. This will, no 
doubt, to some extent apply to those who took part in 
Owen's agitation, as well as to those who were 
antagonistic to it. To claim for the former an abso- 
lute immunity in this regard, would be to claim for 
them infallibility ; a freedom from human imperfec- 
tion ; but this admission being made, it is only right 
to couple with it the assertion that the movement 
generally, and its leaders, never sanctioned, but, on 
the contrary, invariably condemned anything that 
could justify the charges to which I have referred as 
having been brought against it. 

In concluding these references to Mr. Sargant's 
book, I may mention that he is in error when he states 
that Owen entertained, as a pet fallacy, the " vulgar " 
belief that " machinery supersedes labour, and causes 
distress." Mr. Sargant himself admits that it does so 
in particular cases and for a time, and I think it has 
been shown that Owen never insisted on more than 
this, and never entertained the idea condemned by 
Mr. Sargant. He had the highest appreciation of the 
value of machinery, but maintained that increased 
power of production should bring to all a com- 
mensurate increase of comfort The assurance is also 

Misrepresentations. 1 8 1 

given that " Owen's grand error " was his entire 
neglect of the population question. This is certainly 
not the fact, as he expressed himself very strongly on 
the subject. He regarded the ideas of Malthus as 
mischievously untrue, and stated his reasons for so 
doing. He may have been wrong in the position he 
took up, but it cannot be said that he entirely 
neglected the population question. He held, in fact, 
very clear ideas on the subject, which were the result 
of much study and deliberation. 


Close ot Xea&etsbip* patentaee of Store 


With the winding-up of the Queenwood experiment 
Robert Owen's career as the leader of a public move- 
ment may be said to have closed. His activity in 
what he sincerely believed to be the cause of truth 
only closed with his life ; his earnest desire for and 
hope in the progress of the human race never deser- 
ted him ; and what is perhaps more remarkable, he 
never suffered himself to be cast down or dejected. 
Most men who set their hearts upon the attainment 
of some great end, have been troubled with painful 
moments of despair, when they turn their faces to the 
wall. He never despaired of the work to which he 
from the first set his hand ; though over and over 
again he was defeated and driven back. This indom- 
itable courage and unwavering hopefulness was not in 
him the result of perversity of spirit, of recklessness 
as to consequences. He believed that when once a 
true principle in relation to life was seen and accepted, 
its triumph was but a question of time, and that 
whether the time should be long or short depended 
on the activity and wisdom of its advocates. He was 
not indifferent to failure, but he believed that the work 
in which he was engaged was good, and that it was 

Parentage of Store Movement 183 

his duty not to lose heart. When his last great de- 
feat came at Queen wood he was seventy-five, but 
though younger men were cast down he was as calm 
and confident as ever. When things were at the 
worst, and one of his friends expressed regret at cer- 
tain occurrences which, as it was thought, were 
mainly instrumental in causing the disaster, he re- 
plied, " I am an old man, and I have watched narrowly 
the events which have most influenced my life and 
my fortunes, and have noted that things which when 
they happened appeared to me most unfortunate, 
when their consequences were developed proved 
themselves to be most fortunate, while others which, 
at the moment of their occurrence, brought me pleas- 
ure arid satisfaction, frequently turned out to be un- 
fortunate and unsatisfactory. This being the case, I 
wait until I can fairly estimate the consequences — if 
good, I rejoice in them ; if otherwise, my disappoint- 
ment arrives gradually, and is rendered less painful." 
It has been alleged that there was a tendency to- 
wards despotism in Owen, and that at Queenwood he 
endeavoured to set up a kind of oligarchy with power 
to compel obedience. This has been started by 
several persons who knew little or nothing of Owen 
personally. A better knowledge of his character and 
motives would have prevented such a misconception. 
Owen had a strong belief in settled pre-arranged plans 
as an indispensable preliminary to successful action. 
He also believed in one man governing with full power 
to work out the plans agreed upon ; while he dis- 
trusted the kind of management that was open to in- 
terference and intermeddling on the part of others 
when practical operations were going forward. On 

1 84 Life^ Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

the other hand he never advocated an authority which 
should be above criticism and censure, or in conjunc- 
tion with which there did not exist an opportunity 
for the expression of discontent and disapprobation. 

As already pointed out, however, the setting up of 
the kind of authority that existed in the movement 
at^the head of which Owen stood, especially in con- 
nection with the experiment at Queenwood, was a 
^nistake. It is necessary that every leader of the 
people whose object is to obtain for them political 
power, and who desires to see that power properly 
used when it is obtained, should above all things seek 
to train them to a wise use of whatever influence they 
may possess during their preparatory struggles. When 
they begin to distrust themselves up to the point of 
self-exclusion from participation in public affairs, or 
when they permit others to exclude them under any 
plea whatever, especially the plea of incompetence, 
from that moment are they apt to become the tools 
and the victims of those who may desire to mislead 
them. Since government was first instituted, as a 
necessary part of the business of mankind, the in- 
justice that has been suffered may be in the main 
measured by the extent to which the people have been 
excluded from power. This being recognised as a 
fact in connection with the past history of the world, 
the first thing to be aimed at is the admission of the 
people to a share in the management of national 
affairs. This is what the friends of the people should 
assert, and what the people themselves should enforce. 
That such a system might, like other systems, lead to 
blunders of various kinds may be admitted, but when 
we have given such an assertion all the force it is 

Parentage of Store Movement, i^S 

entitled to, it is but an assumption that becomes less 
and less in its probability as the people increase in 
intelligence and in the habit of exercising constitu- 
tional rights. On the other hand, the exclusion of 
the people and the wrongs suffered by them in con- 
sequence of the powerlessness such exclusion involves, 
cover the pages of history in connection with every 
country in the world in every age. 

It is not to be maintained, either in regard to poli- 
tics or religion, that whatever has, with slight varia- 
tions of form, preserved its influence for centuries, can 
be suddenly destroyed, and new dogmas, however 
suitable to a newer era, be as suddenly set up. What 
can be done, however, is to endeavour to instil into 
minds of men an instinctive love of truth, justice, and 
humanity, so as to qualify them to wisely mould and 
modify dogma and usage in deference to the changes 
demanded by an advancing civilization. 

Robert Owen had a new doctrine to preach, and a 
new practice to recommend ; but instead of giving 
new and improved applications of old methods for 
the purpose of introducing and establishing these, he 
and his fellow-workers invented a new system which, 
by its novelty, excited differences of opinion and 
became a difficulty in their path, and was, so far as it 
led to discussion and division, an impediment to 

It must be admitted that however good the object 
aimed at, a failure, however honourable, places those 
who have incurred it at the mercy of the unfriendly. 
The failure of Owen's movement has been attributed 
by many people to his ideas in regard to certain of 
the beliefs and habits of the world : to his ideas on 

1 86 Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen. 

religion, marriage, education, and human character. 
With the exception, however, of the doctrine of the 
formation of character, and the idea of industrial 
villages, Owen's followers were not pledged to his 
special notions, and no more sought to carry them 
out than did any other portion of the British 
community. His ideas on religion, whatever they 
were, were not accepted by those who engaged in the 
Socialist movement, or those who sought to carry out 
the Queenwood experiment. They were no doubt 
occasionally discussed, but never with a view to their 
general adoption, and when, after the collapse, the 
inhabitants of Queenwood went back to their ordinary 
occupations, each carried away his own special 
convictions, just as he brought themi. With regard to 
Owen's views on marriage, he considered the marriage 
laws of Great Britain unjust, and advocated a system of 
divorce that should not need a previous criminality to 
make it available. He went on this question beyond 
the subsequent alteration in the marriage laws in 
England, but not so far as the law goes in certain of 
the States in America. He lectured on the subject, 
and a brief report of what he said was published, 
which, though perhaps correct so far as it went, lacked 
the fulness necessary to prevent mistakes and mis- 
interpretations. But whether the views expressed by 
Owen on this subject were objectionable or not, they 
were his own, and in no way mixed up with the 
proceedings of his followers, who never professed to 
go with him in all things. No marriage was disturbed 
for any reason in connection with Owen's views on 
this question. It is true that the Bishop of Exeter 
and others made charges against the society on these 

Parentage of Store Movement. 187 

grounds ; but they utterly misrepresented the views 
of Owen, and in addition committed the error of 
attributing them to a body of men who never accepted 
them, and by whom they were more than once openly 

Robert Owen's friends remained as numerous and 
as constant as ever, but to whatever cause his failure 
may be attributed, it was so generally referred to a 
want of soundness in his principles, rather than to the 
want of means to carry them out, that any attempt at 
a renewed agitation would have been unsuccessful. 
As a writer in the October number of the Westminster 
Review for i860 says, the Rochdale experiment which 
commenced in 1844 was on foot when Queenwood 
failed, but it was not constructed on a similar basis. 
The objects and the means by which they were to be 
obtained were dififerent, though they were as nearly 
as possible identical with the original store movement. 
If the first store movement and the second are 
considered together, and if it be borne in mind that 
the promoters of the first movement were those who 
tried the Queenwood experiment, and that the 
originators of the second store movement were many 
of them the friends and followers of Robert Owen, the 
inspiration and origin of the vast work now on foot 
will be understood. When it is added to this, that, 
when they were about to commence their new venture, 
the founders of the Rochdale Store sent a deputation 
to Queenwood for advice and instruction, the parentage 
of the present movement will be apparent. This is 
stated here not for the purpose of transferring the credit 
of having originated the present store movement from 
any one set of men to any other, but to show that the 

1 88 Life^ TimeSy and Labours of Robert Owen. 

great idea which has proved itself so successful, and 
which is now taking such rapid possession of the public 
mind, is the result of many years' agitation, of much 
local and varied experiment ; that in its failures and 
in its triumph it furnishes a proof of what unwearied 
and peaceable endeavour may do in promoting the 
welfare of the working people, and the success by 
which such efforts may be ultimately crowned, when 
pursued with an honest determination to overcome 
the obstacles which at first impede them. The first 
men who entered on the work took their discomfitures 
and losses cheerfully, without losing heart or hope. 
They were succeeded by others, who, though varying 
their experiments, were still defeated ; but there were 
again others who, with altered plans, tried once more, 
and whOjConqueringthe great initialdifficulty of poverty, 
have become possessors of capital sufficient to com- 
mence and carry on any enterprise in connection with 
production or distribution. The present men in the 
co-operative movement owe much to those who 
preceded them, but at the same time it has been left 
for them to prove that the highest purposes may be 
attained through the humblest agencies, and that 
progress may be secured without violence or wrong, 
when the people seek the improvement of their 
condition by intelligent and peaceable means. 

Robert Owen had at all times, and under all circum- 
stances, a horror of violence. He knew enough to 
understand that though statesmen are at all times 
ready to make professions of peace, they are just as 
ready, when they dream that some advantage is to be 
gained, to make encroachments that lead to war; 
and perhaps of all possible wars thathe most dreaded was 

Parentage of Store Movement. 189 

one between Great Britain and the United States. 
At about the time when the affairs of Queenwood 
were brought to a close, something approaching to a 
serious misunderstanding had arisen in regard to the 
North-West Boundary Question in America. His 
eldest son, Robert Dale Owen, was at that time an 
active member of Congress, and he at once took it 
upon himself to visit America, and to see what with 
the aid of his son could be done to settle the matter 
in an amicable spirit. The newspapers, as is their 
wont, had begun to put exasperating one-sided views 
before their readers, and the ordinary fermentation of 
accusation and anger was actively proceeding. 
Robert Owen at this time was in his seventy-fourth 
year, but he nevertheless determined to do all in his 
power to get at the merits of the case, in order that 
he might assist in creating in both countries a 
disposition for peaceable settlement. On this errand 
he crossed the Atlantic four times, and as he always 
had access to the chief men among our British states- 
men, and everybody who knew him believed him to 
be a man of strictly honest purpose, he was listened 
to with respect, and with as much confidence as 
politicians and statesmen could be expected to give 
to anyone outside their own craft. On his return 
from his second trip, he called upon me on a summer 
morning before five o'clock, and remained for several 
hours, during which he related, in a most animated 
strain, what he had done, and what his anticipations 
were. He walked about the room briskly while he 
ran on with his narrative, and seemed hopeful that 
his efforts might not be entirely without effect in 
helping to preserve peace between the two nations. 


Uetmination ot Career* 

After this there is but little to record in connection 
with Owen's personal activity as a philanthropist and 
reformer, though he would often call his friends to- 
gether to speak with them of what might be done in 
furthering the objects to attain which he had striven so 
long and so faithfully. He apparently gave up all 
thought of any new experiment^but he never failed to 
point out the grounds on which rested his hope that 
fresh activities would carry the work forward ; that 
new plans and efforts would ultimately lead to a 
permanent improvement in the condition of the people ; 
by which, as was at all times obvious, he did not 
simply mean that the poor should have a more equit- 
able share in the national wealth, in order that they 
might, after their own fashion, imitate the luxurious- 
ness which was corrupting the rich. His own life, 
from its commencement to its close, was simple, 
unostentatious, and temperate. Nothing shocked him 
more than the arrogant displays and half-brutal 
assumptions of wealth, becoming every day more 
intensified through the rapid accumulation of money 
in the hands of men who, blinded by a sense of their 
self-importance and power, took no pains to either 
hide or repair defects which rendered their sudden 

Termination of Career. 191 

prosperity incongruous and offensive. But he felt 
that until the masses of the people had been raised 
above the contaminations of squalor, ignorance and 
want, no struggle to secure to them the higher con- 
ditions of life that belong to decency and independence 
could be very effective; and during the years that 
followed the failure at Queenwood, he never lost an 
opportunity of helping forward whatever aimed at 
the social elevation of the people. His belief in 
spiritualism, of which I shall here say a few words, 
was chiefly influenced by his sympathy with the 
struggles and sufferings of his fellow-creatures, which 
never ceased to disquiet and perplex him. His imag- 
inary revelations from the spirit world referred to this 
almost exclusively. To the last his entire thought 
was to enforce the great truth that the creating power 
of the universe had furnished men with abundance for 
the satisfaction of their legitimate wants, with the 
means of developing their highest intellectual faculties 
and moral susceptibilities, and that it was their duty 
to take counsel together and heartily co-operate for 
the attainment of all that was implied in an acknow- 
ledgment of this truth. 

Much has been said and written in ridicule of 
Robert Owen's belief in spiritualism during the last 
few years of his life. He had, during his long public 
career, so much to say as to the necessity of being 
guided by the proved facts of life, that it was a triumph 
to those who had opposed him and a disappointment 
to a large majority of his friends, when he made 
known his first communications with the spirits, and 
did so by adopting the methods and the language of 
the ordinary believers in spiritualism. It is not sur- 

192 Life^ Times y and Labours of Robert Owen. 

prising that many people made themselves merry at 
his expense, for having allowed himself to be drawn 
into what is still considered one of the most absurd 
and least defensible superstitions of the modern world. 

It is not necessary to discuss the truth or falsehood 
of spirit revelations generally. From the time of the 
oracles of old to the spirit rappers of to-day, there 
has always existed in the human mind a disposition 
to pry into the secrets of the other world. The 
methods devised have, as a rule, not been very suc- 
cessful ; but, however much they may have failed, or 
however ludicrously they may have blundered into 
discredit, there have always been new plans; new 
experts have come to the front, and new revelations 
been made known which never failed to find new 
believers. To say nothing of the multitudes of ordin- 
ary mortals who have fallen into such spiritual snares, 
many men of the highest and brightest intellect 
have accepted as true absurdities of the wildest 

In speaking of Robert Owen and his belief in 
spirit-rapping, one or two circumstances should be 
borne in mind. He had turned his eightieth year — 
his sense of hearing had become so much dulled that 
he had to depend a good deal on others for explana- 
tions of what he but imperfectly heard, and as the 
simplicity and truthfulness of his mind were well 
known, it is easy to understand with what ease he 
might be imposed on by any person who from what- 
ever motive might desire to deceive him. He never 
suspected in anybody a disposition to impose on him, 
and this confidence on his part, as is the case with 
many men, was increased, if those who desired to take 

Termination of Career, 193 

advantage of him expressed a perfect agreement with 
his opinions and principles. He had been before the 
world for fully half a century. He had laboriously, 
and, wherever possible, by practical experiment, sought 
to convince men of the truth of his views, and in this 
life-long labour he had . borne many a reverse, and 
suffered many a disappointment. We must not, then, 
be too severe in our criticism, if at an advanced age, 
towards the close of such a life, he was induced to 
listen to what were declared to be messages from 
friends in whom he trusted and who had passed away ; 
especially when they comforted him with promises 
that at no distant time his hopes would be fulfilled. 
In his ordinary conversation he was a man of remark- 
able frankness, and as his memory was good, he would 
often refer to old times and relate anecdotes of many 
of the people with whom he had had intercourse. In 
this way any person in frequent communication with 
him, might easily acquire a knowledge of many cir- 
cumstances connected with his past life, as well as of 
the characters and dispositions of those with whom he 
had associated. In addition to this, he possessed 
strong family affections, and when persuaded that it 
was possible to hold communication with old friends, 
and with those who had been still dearer to him, it is 
not hard to believe that the yearnings of his heart 
might overcome the doubts suggested by his under- 
standing. The voices of the living had ceased to 
speak of hope in connection with his schemes for the 
regeneration of mankind, and he therefore turned to 
the voices of the dead, and kept his hope alive and 
his heart light by the promises he received. An 
American woman named Hayden, in conjunction, 


194 -^l/^j Times ^ and Labours of Robert Owen. 

probably, with some of his friends who were already 
believers in spiritualism, assisted in leading him to this 
new faith. It is likely, also, that his eldest son, Robert 
Dale Owen, being a strong believer, had something to 
do with the inclining of his mind in this direction. 
The departed with whom he held council, and whom, 
it must be confessed, he frequently consulted on 
trivial matters, were, when in the flesh, sensible and 
able people, and the advice they gave him generally 
sounded very much like what might be reasonably 
uttered by any intelligent person. He remarked how 
uniformly they discountenanced all divisions of class, 
country, and colour. The object of the spirits he de- 
clared, " was to permanently benefit all human kind 
equally, without reference to divisions of any kind." 
They said, " do not dispute with those who do not 
and cannot yet believe in these (to them) new and 
strange manifestations, for we adopt means to con- 
vince all, without your doing more than stating the 
facts within your own knowledge and experience." 

In one of his publications, the "Future of the 
Human Race/' he gives an account of his conversations 
with the Duke of Kent, which, had they taken place be- 
tween two ordinary individuals, would not be worth 
the least attention. Some of them are very trivial, 
but as spiritual siances seldom went beyond useless 
communications, the only apparent reason for their re- 
petitionis that importance wasattached to them asrelat- 
ing to thepublic affairs with which Owen wasatthattime 
engaged. That Owen was a very sincere and honest 
believer in spiritualism, during a few of the latter 
years of his life, there can be no doubt. He carried 
with him to the spirits, a heart overladen with sorrow 

Termination of Career, 195 

for human suffering, and a painful anxiety as to how 
it might be mitigated ; and of one thing we may be 
certain, that whatever the ground of his belief, the 
great sustaining hope of his new faith was that the 
impenetrable veil might be lifted, and that he might 
see in near prospect a world made happier by a wiser 
use of the blessings bestowed by God. 

Any argument on the truth or falsehood of spirit- 
ualism would here be out of place. It is doubtful 
whether such a question ever was or will be much 
influenced by argument. Yet it is, I think, impossible 
for those who knew Robert Owen, who were ac- 
quainted with the character of his mind, not to con- 
jecture that he was imposed upon : that questions 
were suggested and answers made up in order to serve 
the purpose of those who were practising on the 
credulity of the public. 



For the last ten or twelve years of his life, the pro- 
ceedings of Robert Owen had ceased to be discussed 
in the newspapers and on platforms. It need not, 
however, be concluded from this that he was alto- 
gether inactive. He republished a considerable 
portion of his earlier writings, among other things his 
plans for dealing with the wretched condition of 
Ireland. He restated his views on national education, 
maintaining that, " the great want of the world was a 
good training from birth, and a sound practical educa- 
tion for all, based on true principles." He drew up 
proposals for a treaty of federation between Great 
Britain and the United States of North America, the 
gist of which was that Great Britain and America 
should declare their interests to be the same ; should 
agree to a federative union which to all other countries 
should be admitted, and recognise it as a duty to ter- 
minate war and live in the abundance of peaceful 
industry and friendly exchange. Though this cannot 
be regarded otherwise than as a dream, it might not 
be amiss if the statesman of the world could have 
visions somewhat similar. 

The French Revolution of 1848, and the disturb- 
ances that followed on the Continent led to much 

Concluston. 197 

discussion as well as to some very important public 
action in England. Christian Socialism, with the 
Rev. F. D. Maurice at its head, was a far more im- 
portant movement than it at first appeared to be. The 
foremost actors, being for the most part men of ex- 
ceptional ability, soon came to exercise a strong 
influence on public opinion, and though the old 
Socialists did not rally to them as a body, very large 
numbers individually sought to forward their objects. 
These were yearsofbreakingup,ratherthan of formation 
and advance ; but for what they contained of practical 
work in the direction of progress, the country is largely 
indebted to Mr. Maurice and his friends. What they 
had to say reached the ears of the most intelligent 
and thoughtful of the old Socialists and Chartists, and 
as their appeals were made on the ground of a lofty 
and liberal Christian unity, and in a profound convic- 
tion of the necessity of peaceful effort, there can be 
no question that their influence was not only well- 
timed, but most wholesome and valuable in its results. 
Robert Owen was too old and too much occupied 
with his own plans to take any active part with Mr. 
Maurice and his followers, even had it been desirable 
that he should have done so ; but they had always 
his good wishes, and, whenever an opportunity offered, 
his good word. 

The formation of the Social Science Association was 
also hailed by Owen with enthusiasm, as he believed 
that it would in time produce excellent results ; and 
though its labours have been represented as not at all 
commensurate with its pretensions, there can be little 
doubt that its discussions and publications have had a 
most beneficial effect in helping the various reforms 

198 LifCy Times, and Labours of Robert Owen* 

since entered on. The first meeting of the Social 
Science Association was held at Birmingham, in 1857. 
Robert Owen attended, and read a paper entitled 
" The Human Race Governed without Punishment" 
At this time he was in his eighty-sixth year. In 
the following year it met at Liverpool, and though he 
had during the interval been losing strength, he never- 
theless determined to be present. On this journey 
Mr. James Rigby accompanied him, for, though he 
was cheerful and courageous, it was eyident that the 
end was approaching. It has been said that his deter- 
mination to be present at this Congress was the result 
of mere restlessness, or it might be vanity. Those who 
knew him best believed him to be influenced by a 
different motive. It has also been asserted that what 
he had to say had become tiresome by repetition. So 
is it told of Saint John that his constant cry was 
" Little children, love one another," and that when 
asked why he repeated this so frequently, he answered 
that it included everything. For fifty years Owen's 
mind dwelt constantly on the importance of a sound 
moral and intellectual training for the young, as the 
most effectual means by which to secure the exercise 
of justice, humanity and mutual consideration among 
men ; as the only safe foundation for national prosper- 
ity. It is perhaps natural, therefore, that his persis- 
tence in urging this view upon the attention of others, 
should be irksome to those who differed from him, 
or who did not care to be repeatedly confronted with 
all that bore evidence to a neglect of duty. 

Upon arriving in Liverpool, Owen had to take to 
his bed ; but was carried from there in a sedan chair 
to the platform of the Congress, so that he might in 

Conclusion. tgg 

person deliver his last message. Lord Brougham led 
him to the front, and supported him when he com- 
menced to read his paper. In a moment or so he 
broke down. His friends gathered about him, again 
placed him in the sedan chair, and sorrowfully 
carried him back to the bed from which he had just 
before been taken, and where he lay for an hour or 
more quite unconscious. 

Having rallied somewhat after a fortnight's rest, he 
decided to travel to his native town and to die there. 
When he arrived at Newtown, he and Mr. Rigby 
sought for accommodation in the house in which he 
had been born. This not being obtainable, he 
took up his quarters next door, or next door but one ; 
and after a while felt, as he thought, so much im- 
proved by his native air, that he returned to Liver- 
pool. Upon reaching there, however, he felt con- 
vinced that his earthly labours were over, and set out 
once more for Newtown, that his life might end 
where it had begun. His eldest son, Robert Dale 
Owen, who was at that time charge d'affaires zX. 
Naples, in the presidency of Franklin Pierce, hurried 
over to England ; arriving in time to be present at his 
father's death. The following is the letter in which 
he announced the event. 

" November 17th, 1858. 

" It is all over. My dear father passed away this 
morning, at a quarter before seven, as quietly and 
gently as if he had been falling asleep. There was 
not the least struggle, not the contraction of a limb or 
a muscle, not an expression of pain on his face. His 
breathing gradually became slower and slower, until 
at last it ceased so imperceptibly, that even as I held 

200 Life^ Times^ and Labours of Robert Owen, 

his hand I could scarcely tell the moment when he 
no longer breathed. His last words, distinctly pro- 
nounced about twenty minutes before his death, were, 
'Relief has come' About half-an-hour before he 
said, ' Very easy and comfortable! " 

He lies in the old Churchyard "at Newtown, by a 
picturesque bend of the Severn, in the grave in which 
his parents are buried. 

In tracing the main incidents of Robert Owen's 
life, I have omitted many things such as belong to 
the work of the ordinary biographer. My reasons 
for doing this were referred to in the opening chapter, 
where I spoke of that which gave to such a career 
its chief interest. I may also, at times, have ap- 
peared to assume the tone of the advocate, rather 
than that of a simple narrator. This I venture to 
think excusable. His principles were novel in the 
method in which they were advanced, and in the 
application he sought to give them. Almost neces- 
sarily, as I have already said, he offended prejudices, 
and disturbed personal and class interests, and those 
who, from whatever cause, disapproved of his prin- 
ciples or failed to understand his motives, made him 
the object of an attack in connection with which they 
misrepresented his views and discredited his efforts. 
I, in consequence, have felt it encumbent on me to 
enter upon fuller details than I otherwise might have 
considered necessary, in vindication of his ideas and 

It frequently happens that though a man sees 
clearly what he means, and understands distinctly 
what he intends to do, he may express himself so as 
to be misunderstood by those who listen to him when 

Conclusion. 201 

he speaks, and who read what he writes. I do not 
insist that Robert Owen always explained himself in 
the clearest possible manner, though I am satisfied 
he took much trouble to do so. However this may 
be, his views as he explained them, and as his op- 
ponents interpreted them, were not in agreement. 
As I have stated, much that he had to say was 
opposed to prejudices which existed in the public 
mind, and many of his proposals alarmed men who 
thought their interests endangered. He therefore 
incurred strong opposition, and much misconception 
and misrepresentation. It was not a habit with him 
to indulge in controversies of denial, contradiction, 
retort, or counter accusation. His almost invariable 
practice was to state and restate his propositions, and 
leave the result to time ; but though this might have 
been sufficient, had the channels of communication 
with the public been equally open to both sides, and 
the disposition to^ fairly investigate the questions in 
dispute been all that it should have been, as matters 
stood, only the adverse side received attention from 
the general public ; not only because the press shut 
out what Owen had to say in his own behalf, but 
because trouble is seldom taken to hunt after re- 
butting evidence where a desire to believe the charges 
made predominates. 

Owen's personal friends had ample opportunity of 
understanding his ideas correctly, and as I had to 
discuss in public with those who were most violently 
opposed to him, I often sought him for the purpose 
of obtaining such explanation as might assist me in 
the work I was called upon to perform. I think I 
may say that from conversations occurring frequently 

202 Li/e, ThneSy and Labours of Robert Owen. 

and extending over a period of ten years, I came 
to accurately comprehend his ideas. The peculiar- 
ities of thought attributed to him were not his, 
but were, as a rule, invented for him. His views 
were not eccentric, but they were new and very 
strange ; and his failures, where he failed, were 
the result of insufficient means, rather than of defective 

The agitation of Owen was unsuccessful in its 
immediate results ; but though the immediate con- 
summation of our hopes be denied, it is for us to work 
on as wisely and faithfully as we can, trusting the 
fulfilment will come, perhaps in a better way and at 
a time more suitable than any we could appoint. For 
everything done by Robert Owen and his friends in 
founding co-operative villages and workshops, there is 
ample recompense in the present success of the 
co-operative idea. I think it constitutes a special 
claim on our gratitude that Owen brought into 
practical activity for the public good, the energies of 
the humblest and the poorest, to augment the vast 
popular power by which the present co-operative 
movement is sustained. It is only since Owen's 
influence has been felt that it can be truly said the 
masses of the people have been brought collectively 
into action for the promotion of objects which have 
been attended by results that are likely to be 
permanent, because, while they secure general 
advantages, they confer general discipline and 
strength. The co-operative movement is rapidly 
becoming a national movement, and a national move- 
ment, sustained by the development and activity of 
an increasing popular knowledge, can never attain the 

Conclusion, 203 

limit of its usefulness so long as any good work 
remains to be done. 

No man's labour for good is in vain, 

Tho' he win not the crown but the cross ; 
Every wish for man's good is a gain, 

Every doubt of man's gain is a loss. 
Not the price that we bargain to pay. 

But the price that she sets on herself. 
Is the value of truth. Who can weigh 

What the weight of her worth is in pelf? 
To the soul, by whose life-long endeavour, 

Age hath won from the losses of youth. 
The mere loss of an untruth is ever 

Good as great as the gain of a truth. 

In this faith Owen worked without intermission : 
it is one of the great lessons such a life as his affords, 
and it is to be hoped that those who follow in his 
steps as practical workers will also profit by the 
example he set in the spirit of his teaching. 

In every effort he made for the benefit of society 
his aims were honest ; his patriotism unimpeachable ; 
his generosity unbounded ; his sacrifices great and 
unhesitatingly incurred. He laboured for the people ; 
he died working for them ; and his last thought was 
for their welfare. 


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